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[ sound of silence screaming in my ear ]
by kHo

***Hello darkness, my old friend,
I've come to talk with you again,
Because a vision softly creeping,
Left its seeds while I was sleeping,
And the vision that was planted in my brain
Still remains
Within the sound of silence. ***

I felt the smack, the finality of it, the sting of it, as if it had been delivered to me. Then she´d directed her venomous glare at me, and I couldn´t tear my eyes away in time to miss the daggers headed my way.

“He´s yours again.”

And just like that the bitch was gone. I should have felt relief. This was what I wanted, wasn´t it? I´d wanted her gone. I´d wanted Holden back. I´d wanted her out of our lives for good. Mostly, though, I´d wanted things to go back to the way they were. That wasn´t possible anymore cause Holden changed it all. Holden fucked it all up, he´d torpedoed that option right the fuck out of the water. He´d put it out there like it was nothing, looking at me like he pitied me. Poor simple Banky. Poor misguided fool, in love with his best friend.

Fuck you, Holden McNeil. Fuck your pity, fuck your arrogance, and fuck your epiphany. Fuck your psychoses, fuck your hang-ups, and fuck your insecurity. Most of all, fuck you for doing it in front of her. In front of that fucking dyke, that hate-spewing man loathing dyke of a whore that somehow fucked up your brain so much so that you thought I loved you.

I still don´t know how I feel about him kissing me, and that fact alone scares the shit out of me. When he kissed me I felt something stir in me that I couldn´t quite place. I couldn´t decide whether it made me want to puke, made me want to punch him, or made me want to pull him closer. Pull him closer and, come wind, hail, or dyke, never let him go.

He´s still standing there. Still shocked. Still watching the door, as if any moment the bitch is going to come back in, flash him a quick smile. She´s going to walk in, say “Gotcha. Of course I´ll play grab ass with you and Banky, I was just yanking your chain,” and walk up to him and kiss him. All is forgiven.

Now who´s the simple, misguided fool?

***In restless dreams I walked alone
Narrow streets of cobblestone,
'Neath the halo of a street lamp,
I turned my collar to the cold and damp
When my eyes were stabbed by the flash of a neon light
That split the night
And touched the sound of silence.***

I get up, and I can´t even look at him. I want to. I want to go to him, I want to smile at him, hug him. I want to say everything is all right, that fuck her, he was better off without her. But I can´t, cause I´m angry. I don´t know if I´m angry with him, or angry with her, or maybe even angry with myself. All I know, the once simple fact is, I´m angry. Really fucking angry. So instead of turning to him, instead of doing the friend thing, the thing we´ve done for the past 20 years, I turn my back on him and walk into my room.

Cause isn´t that what he just fucking did?

Turned his back on me. Used me, exploited what he thought my feelings for him were in order to save his and Alyssa´s relationship. Ignored my feelings, ignored what I might be going through, instead concentrating on her, on himself. Disregarded me and concentrated on his shit. On his feelings, on his inadequacies. His inability to deal with the past as the past. His inability to do anything on a small scale, always craving drama and fucking excitement. Everything being big and blown out of proportion instead of small and real.

Then again, who am I to talk? Hadn´t I been the one for the past month screaming at the top of his lungs about what a bitch-slut-dyke she was? Hadn´t I taken the below the belt approach instead of facing him man to man, best friend to best friend, and telling him the truth? Though now I´m not even sure what the truth is. I´m beginning to think what I thought was the truth isn´t the truth at all anymore. Was I watching his back? Was I afraid of losing my best friend? Was I worried about the comic? Did I really think she was fucking with his head?

Or was I in love with him? Was I? Am I?

I´d never thought about it, not really. Sure, you have those fleeting moments when you´re fucking some chick you met at a bar when his head pops in yours, just smiling at you. Sometimes even when you´re alone, in your room, making a withdrawal from the spank bank, and you see his face floating just before yours. Sure, I´ve had those. But doesn´t everyone? Isn´t it natural for things like that to flit every once in a while through your mind when you see this same person day in and day out for the past 20 fucking years of your life?

***And in the naked light I saw
Ten thousand people, maybe more.
People talking without speaking,
People hearing without listening,
People writing songs that voices never share
And no one dare
Disturb the sound of silence.***

Did you ever have one of those moments when you find out that everything you thought was so secure, where you thought there was no room to have doubt, is completely fucking thrown into upheaval? Where you think to yourself, wow, I really don´t know shit, do I?

Cause I don´t right now. I don´t know diddily squat about jack fucking shit right now. Up from down, left from right, light from dark. Real from imagined. The stir I felt earlier, from that kiss, that all too quick, all too brash, all too unexpected kiss, was that real? Was that arousal? Was that nausea? Was it fear? Was it shock? Was it just what I thought I should feel? What the fuck was it?!

How the fuck do I deal with this shit?! FUCK, Holden, you can´t drop shit like this at my feet and just leave me!

Speaking of, by the way, why the fuck isn´t he banging on my door yet? Why the fuck isn´t he asking me if I´m okay with this shit? Why isn´t he barging in, demanding that I talk to him? He´s always had the uncanny ability to read my emotions. He´s always been able to tell when he´s stepped over the line. Always known when I was lying, especially about how I felt about something. And yet now, when it matters the most, he´s done nothing to check on me. Yet, I wonder, am I furious at him for that, or grateful? Cause this is too confusing right now, I don´t know if I can handle him being in my face while I figure out what this throbbing in my gut is trying to tell me.

I swear to God, if he´s gone after that bitch, I will never forgive him.

I said sure? He asked me to fuck him and Alyssa, together, the three of us, and I´d said sure? Why did I do that? How did that word come out of my mouth? Where the flying fuck did it come from? What did that mean? Sure, I´ll fuck you cause I love you? Sure, I´ll fuck you cause I want to have a threesome? Sure, I´ll fuck you cause it will make you happy? Sure, I´ll turn my entire life into a complete fucking phantasmagoria where up is down, black is white, and I´m gay?!

***"Fools" said I, "You do not know
Silence like a cancer grows.
Hear my words that I might teach you,
Take my arms that I might reach you."
But my words like silent raindrops fell,
And echoed
In the wells of silence ***

There he is, finally. Banging on my door. It started as a knock, but the longer I didn´t answer the more fervent it got. His voice is raising, and I can hear the tears in his voice. I can picture him, his pitiful face, fallen, broken. The tears running down his face. His eyes tortured, plagued by the gravity of what he´s just done to himself. To Alyssa. To us.

Serves you right, you self-righteous fuck!

I´m relieved that he still cares for me enough to come after me. I´m relieved that he hasn´t somehow forgotten what we´ve meant to each other, just pushed me aside solely for her. That relief doesn´t change the fact that I´m fucking angry as piss at him right now though. It doesn´t excuse what he did. It doesn´t change the fact that I feel like I´m going to fucking break into a million pieces the second I look at him.

It does however answer a few questions for me. It does make me realize something I´d never questioned before. It does make it clear beyond a shadow of a doubt that the love I´ve felt for him over the years hasn´t been 100% purely about friendship. Cause hearing his voice right now, knowing that he´s upset, knowing that he´s crying, is breaking me. It´s tearing me in two, sitting here in front of my bed. Half of me wanting to get up and open the door, let him in, hug him, hold him close. Wanting him to not cry, to not feel pain. To take the pain away, wipe away the tears. The other half of me wanting to run the fuck away. Get the fuck out of dodge. Run away from the reality of what´s just occurred to me.

Cause this makes it worse. It makes it colder, what he did. Cause he thought I loved him and he was willing to use me to get Alyssa back. As a friend, I maybe could accept that. Sure, it hurt, and sure it wasn´t very decent of him to do to me, but as a friend I could maybe get that. Understand his motives were brought on by temporary insanity and stupidity. But this pain, this stabbing fucking aching pain in my heart is something I know will not leave me soon.

Here they are. I knew they were coming, and nothing I could do would stop them. I felt them building the second he started calling to me. They´re spilling over now, and I wish to God they wouldn´t start cause I knew it was going to be hard as fuck to get rid of them. No way in hell was I going to let Holden see them. I don´t cry often, never have. Hardly as a child, rarely as a teen, and almost never as an adult. Now my tears were reserved for the too horrible to not cry things. Things like death. Things like finding out my mother had cancer. Things like, apparently, realizing I was in love with my best friend, unbeknownst even to my own self.

***And the people bowed and prayed
To the neon god they made.
And the sign flashed out its warning,
In the words that it was forming.
And the sign said, ***

Why? Why him? Why me? Why now? How did I not know? How long has he known? How long have I felt this way? Has it been since we met? Has it been since Alyssa? Have I always loved him? Is he my soul mate? I´d always thought of him as my hetero-lifemate, a term Jay had coined and I had shamelessly stolen. I always thought we´d always exist in one another´s worlds, no matter what. No matter when he got married, no matter if he had kids, no matter where we were in our lives. That we would always be a we, and nothing would ever change that. Have I been living in some fucking deluded alternate reality? How can someone love someone and not fucking know it?!

How did I not figure it out? I´ve never truly liked a partner of his. I´ve always talked shit about them, to his face and behind his back. Hooper´s called me a “catty bitch” for that reason alone so many times I can´t even count them. When he would fuck them, in his room, and I´d lay here on my bed, I´d feel the loneliness sink in. I´d always chalked it up to me not being the one fucking anyone, but was that what it was? Was it more to do with him than it did to me being without someone?

Cause it´s not like I never got laid, it´s not like it was hard for me. There´s easy bitches all around Jersey. All I had to do was walk up to them, smile, and try not to curse too much and let out too many vulgar innuendos and it was as simple as that. But I´d never tried that hard. I´d lie in my bed at night, hearing him go to town, hear him grunt, hear her moan his name, and get that sinking feeling in my heart. Fuck, how did I not realize this sooner?!

There were even nights when we came together, me and him. I don´t know how I let myself think that was okay for me to do. It would happen every once in a while, just hearing him moaning, grunting, panting through the paper thin walls separating our rooms would get me hard. I guess I thought that sex was sex, and those sounds meant pleasure, so it was only natural for me to get a hard on. I´d let my hand wander down there, begin to stroke myself. If I close my eyes now I can still remember. Still hear him panting, still feel my stroke pace increasing as the tempo of his grunts did. Until now I never realized I was listening to him, ignoring, blocking out the female counterpart. Listening to him moan, to his pleasure, deriving my own from his. And then, in the aftermath, feeling the shame wash over me. I´d always thought the shame came with being Catholic, seeing as how masturbation is a sin in Catholicism. Maybe it came with the impure thoughts of Holden I´d been having in my subconscious. Isn´t it funny how the subconscious can fool your conscious for so long? And then, when it comes out, tell you “I tried to tell you so!”

What the fuck am I going to do now? How the fuck do I ever face him again?

Suddenly I´m up and frantically searching for something I can´t name. I´m looking around, my heart is pounding, and my head is ready to explode. I have to find whatever it is I´m looking for, and fast, or I´m going to have an embolism. I run towards my closet, falling to my knees, digging, digging. As my hand closes around my suitcase I finally realize I have what I´m looking for. Of course I´m leaving, it´s the only way. The only way I can come to terms, the only way I can deal. The only way to wrap my head around the huge mess that that I´ve become in the past couple of hours without having to face him.

I´m packing my shit, and getting myself the fuck out of dodge. Out of this apartment, out of this neighborhood, maybe even so far as out of Jersey as a whole. I don´t know if I´ll come back, I don´t know if I´ll be able to. I´m packing my shit, and damn the consequences of his actions. Damn Holden for making me do this. Damn him for making me realize this. I was perfectly happy being the blissfully ignorant misguided simple fool that I was three hours ago.

I´m blasting the fuck out of this god forsaken hole he´s created for us, and God willing I´m not ever looking back.

***"The words of the prophets
are written on the subway walls
And tenement halls."
And whisper'd in the sounds of silence.***

***Sound of Silence, by Simon and Garfunkel

[ t r a n s i t i o n s ]
by kHo

It was noon before he came out of his room. Sixteen hours. Sixteen hours of wondering, waiting. Sixteen hours of hell. Sixteen hours of fearing that he might have just lost the one constant in his life because of his infantile jealousy and psychotic epiphany.

“Bank,” he choked out, the breath threatening to cave in his chest. He wasn´t aware he´d been holding it until he saw him come out of his room, the burning in his lungs bringing tears to his eyes once again.

“Look at me,” he said, quietly. “Tell me it´s okay, tell me I didn´t fuck up the best thing I had. . . tell me I´m wrong, tell me I dreamed it. Fuck it, I don´t care what you tell me, just fucking talk to me!”

Banky´s eyes focused on the carpet, the suitcase dragging on the floor behind him. His jaw worked several times before he laughed lightly, shaking his head. Holden knew that laugh. That wasn´t Banky´s laugh. That was the laugh that came out cause you didn´t want to cry.

“I can´t, Holden,” he said quietly, his free hand reaching up and pushing his hair off his face.

Holden stood for the first time in hours, unsure if his legs could hold him up longer than a mere few seconds. He´d been sitting in the same position on the couch for only God knows how long, having given up hours ago at getting Banky to come out and talk to him. “Yes you can. . . Talk to me, Banky. It´s me, Holden.”

Banky´s eyes flew up, his eyebrows pinched together as he looked at Holden, bewilderment in his eyes. He might as well have punched him. The look in his eyes said it all. “I don´t know who Holden is anymore.” His voice was low, steady. His face showed no emotion, but it was there in his eyes. The pain, the hurt, the anger, the betrayal.

A tear fell out of Holden´s eye and he didn´t bother to reach up to wipe it away. “I´m still me,” he whispered, holding his hands out in surrender, begging to be forgiven. “I´m still the same guy you knew when we were ten. . . ” And then the laugh came again, and Holden felt as if he´d been kicked in the gut.

“No,” he said, shaking his head, the smile playing across his face. “The Holden when we were ten gave a shit about me.”

“Banky, I love you, you know that!”

Banky closed his eyes, unable to bear looking at him right now. Not now, not while it was so raw. His grip on his suitcase tightened as he started for the door. “Don´t do this, Holden. Just let me go. . . ”

He broke then, as the sobs wracked his body. “Banky, just fucking wait. . . just fucking talk to me!” Taking a deep breath he looked at him, hoping that his eyes could tell Banky all he needed to know. Hoping they could still converse beyond the words that wouldn´t come, as they had been able to for 20 years. “I need you to stay. . . I can´t have lost you too!”

Banky turned to face him, willing the tears to crawl back up inside, but unable to stop them. “How could you do that, Holden. . . how could you do that to me?”

He shook his head. “I´m sorry, Bank. I did it for you. . . I did it cause I love you.”

“BULLSHIT!” Banky dropped the handle to the rolling suitcase, taking three quick steps to stand before Holden, poking him in the chest. “If you loved me, you wouldn´t have done that. . . not in front of her.” The tears fell unchecked down his face as he looked at his best friend. “You did it for you. . . you did it for some sick twisted fucked up notion that you needed experience. . . You did it. . . ” He paused, steeling himself to say it. “You did it for her, cause you wanted to be with her. Cause she´s all that mattered to you. You did it despite our friendship, not for it.”

Holden shook his head. “No,” he said, feeling for all the world like he was going to bleed to death right there at that very spot. “I never meant to hurt you.”

Banky threw out his arm in an exasperated gesture. “Of course you didn´t mean to, Holden!!!” He shook his head, the anger bubbling to the surface, past the pain, past the betrayal, until it was coursing through his veins like a poison. Picking up a mug he had purchased Holden years ago at a carnival, having had their picture painted on it, he held it in front of Holden´s face. With all the might he had in him he hurled it to the ground, shattering it into a million pieces on the floor between them. “Whether I meant to do that or not. . . is it any less broken,” he asked calmly.

Holden stared down at the mug, feeling as if Banky had shattered him and not the mug. “Is that what I did, Banky,” he whispered, staring at the shards of glass. “Did I break you?”

“What the fuck do you think, man,” Banky yelled, somehow restraining himself from reaching out and beating the living daylights out of him. “If you thought I loved you, if you believed I loved you. . . how the fuck could you confront me like that? How the fuck could you ask me, expose me, in front of her. In front of that fucking dyke?!” He shook his head again, backing up, unable to stand the sight of Holden at that moment. “You should have asked me. . . you should have talked to me, one on one. . . It was always you and me, man. Always us, until she came into our lives and threw it into a complete fucking upheaval!”

Finally Holden looked up, shaking his head. “But what about you,” he asked, feeling himself get angry. “What the fuck about you, Banky?! You´re no fucking innocent in this!” He stepped forward, not even feeling it as the shards of glass dug into his bare foot. “What about you, digging into her past?! Putting doubt in my head! Chastising, berating me for FALLING IN LOVE! Cause I LOVE her, Banky! And if you´re my friend, if you love me, romantically or platonically, shouldn´t that have been enough for you?”

“I DON´T FUCKING KNOW, GOD DAMNIT,” Banky yelled, throwing his arms up and cradling his head, feeling as if he was going insane. “I don´t know what I was doing. . . I don´t know what was going through my head! I don´t know what the fuck I did, Holden!” He looked at Holden, and what he saw in Banky´s eyes made Holden hope for a second that things could go back to where they were. “I didn´t know I loved you,” Banky said quietly, shattering Holden´s one thread of hope. “I didn´t know until last night. . . and you tried to whore me out. . . to further your experience. To win the girl back. It was all for the girl, I was just an aside.” He shook his head, the tears falling even faster. “And you broke me. . . You broke my heart before I even knew you had it.”

Holden stepped forward, taking Banky´s face in his hands, meeting his eyes. “I´m sorry,” he whispered, shaking his head. “I don´t know what I was thinking, Banky, you have to believe me. I was so fucked up.” He waited for Banky to jerk away. When he didn´t he continued. “I don´t know where the fuck my head was. . . the last thing I wanted to do was hurt you, Bank, ya gotta believe that.”

Banky´s hand reached up, holding onto Holden´s. Leaning his head forward he rested his forehead against Holden´s, closing his eyes and trying to draw his strength up. “I know,” he whispered. “And I don´t know why I did the things I did. . . I just couldn´t stand the thought of losing you.”

Holden slid his arms around Banky, holding him to him in a crushing hug. “Fuck,” he said, closing his eyes and smiling. “I can´t stand the thought of losing you either.” Pulling back he smiled at Banky, relieved to see a tentative smile on his friend´s face. Placing his hands on Banky´s face he leaned forward, closing the gap between their lips. “I love you,” he whispered just before kissing him. Their lips touched and he felt Banky stiffen, and then slightly give. He felt his mouth open beneath his and their tongues intertwine. Banky´s hand reached around Holden´s back, pulling him closer, deepening their kiss.

And then Banky was backing away, a whole fresh set of tears rolling down his face. “Fuck, Holden,” he whispered, smiling sadly. “I have to go.”

“Wait,” Holden said, reaching out and grabbing Banky, unwilling to let him walk out of the door. “We can start over, we´ll start fresh. . . we´ll start together, just us. . . You and me again, the way it should be, the way it´s always been.”

Banky laughed, and this time it was actually genuine, though torturously sad. “That´s just it, Holden. The part of you that kissed me, that´s not the part of me that kissed you.”

“Banky, I don´t. . . ”

Banky reached down and grabbing his suitcase again. “You did that because you love me, yes. . . You love me as a friend.” He shook his head. “It´s not the same kind of love, Holden. It´s just not the fucking same.”

“Wait. . . ”

Banky opened the door, closing his eyes as he heard Holden call after him. Not turning around he raised his hand in a halfhearted wave. “Good luck, Holden.”

“Banky. . . don´t. . . please don´t go. . . ”

4 months later. . .

“Well if it isn´t Banky fucking Edwards,” lilted a voice behind him. “What the fuck are you doing in New York bitch?!”

He turned and face Hooper, smiling despite himself. “Hey, Hoop,” he said, nodding at him.

Hooper closed the gap between them, drawing Banky to him in a hug. “You´re such a bitch, you know that? She doesn´t write, she doesn´t call. . . ” He smirked up at Banky. “Wouldn´t have killed you to let us know you were still alive, you know.”

“Sorry,” Banky said quietly, the urge to run and the urge to stay creating a confusing swirl in his head. He looked around, his eyes searching.

“He´s not here, baby,” Hooper said, smiling at him. “But he´s worried sick about you.”

Banky avoided his gaze, instead looking inside the nearby bakery. “What are you doing here?”

Hooper positioned himself beside Banky, looping his arm through his. “Walk with me.”

Banky considered taking his arm back, turning, running for the nearest bus stop. Darting out in the busy streets of New York, never to be found again. Instead he fell in step with Hooper, an odd sense of comfort enveloping him. “You still didn´t answer my question,” he said, looking at Hooper out of the corner of his eye as they walked down Main Street.

Hooper cast him an amused look. “Why don´t we cut the bullshit, shall we? Just get it over with.”

Banky looked forward, refusing to meet Hooper´s eyes. “What do you mean. . . ”

“Don´t play coy with me honey, you know you want to ask about him.”

Banky stopped walking, causing Hooper to stumble to a halt, turning to face him. “I can´t do this Hooper.”

Hooper locked eyes with him, nodding. “I understand.”

Banky let out a breath he wasn´t aware he´d been holding. “I have to get to. . . ”

“Keep running, baby. Keep hiding. Keep ducking away from your shadow. Whatever gets you through it.” Hooper smiled and leaned in closer. “But you ain´t foolin´ me for one red hot second, Banky Edwards. I see through you like glass.”

Banky closed his eyes, pinching the bridge of his nose. Finally he let out a breath and looked at Hooper. “How is he,” he asked, barely audible.

“Sick with worry, Banky,” he answered, linking his arm with Banky and continuing down the street. “He´s convinced himself you´re either off lying in some ditch somewhere or jumped off the Empire State Building.” Hooper smiled and bumped hips with him. “But I said not our Banky. . . Banky might be gone, but he´s not dead.”

Banky felt tears come to his eyes and quickly turned his head so Hooper couldn´t see them. “He thinks I´m dead,” he asked.

Hooper nodded. “He´s been tearing himself apart, honey. He´s convinced himself he´s killed you, that if you are still alive that he´s killed a part of you that will never come back.” He looked at Banky, raising an eyebrow. “Has he?”

“I don´t know,” he said honestly, still looking straight ahead.

“Well,” Hooper said, still walking jauntily beside him. “We´ll get it back, won´t we Banky?”

Banky looked at Hooper, smiling slightly. “Does anything ever fucking bring you down?”

Hooper laughed. “Only if he´s tall dark and handsome. . . and gentlemanly of course.”


Hooper smiled, crossing his arms and looking around the apartment. “Well, well, it´s almost as if you´ve grown up, Banky,” he said, admiring the understated decoration of the small apartment overlooking the Manhattan skyline.

Banky laughed, handing Hooper a beer and sitting on the couch. “It came like this. . . I just live here.”

Hooper nodded, sitting next to him. “Well that explains the lack of phallic symbols and curse word riddled scribblings.”

Banky laughed slightly, looking down into his beer, still unsure how comfortable he was with Hooper being there. For four months he´d been able to escape his past. Atleast, he´d been able to escape having to confront his past. He still had the dreams, and the memories. He still had moments when he couldn´t breath because a memory had crept up on him out of the blue.

“Well, I didn´t think the apartment manager would appreciate a ‘Here lies cockboy´ scrawled across his pristine white walls.”

Hooper turned so as to face Banky, putting his elbow on the back of the couch and propping his head up in it. “What happened Banky? Why did you run away? Why did you completely cut yourself off from everyone?” He shook his head, for once not seeming to be the happy-go-lucky Hooper everyone knew and loved. “I was your friend too, ya know.”

Banky closed his eyes, looking away. “I know you are, Hoop. It was just too painful.”

Hooper reached out and took Banky´s hand, wrapping it tightly in his own. “What happened?”

He looked at Hooper, tears shining in his eyes. “What did he tell you?”

Hooper, who until this point had never seen Banky cry, took a moment to settle the nerves that had been set into motion by the wetness in Banky´s eyes. “He told me he confronted you. That he confronted you in front of Alyssa, and he´d lost you forever. That he should have done it just you and him, but he was stupid and confused, and he did it at the most horrible time in the most awful way. . . but he didn´t go into details.”

Banky laughed slightly, nodding his head. “Good old Holden, leaving out the details.” He took a deep breath, taking back his hand from Hooper and wiping at his face. He´d never been good at the whole sympathy thing. He knew Hooper was sincere, but it still made him feel like less of a man, for him to have his hand held like some five year old. “He sat me and Alyssa down on the couch, proceeded to tell me I was in love with him, kissed me, and then asked me and Alyssa to have a threesome with him so 1) he could have as much experience as Alyssa, and 2) supposedly so I could come to terms with me being gay.”

“Uh uh, honey,” Hooper said, his eyes wide. “You´ve got to be shitting me. Holden? Holden McNeil?”

“I shit you not,” Banky said, smiling at Hooper´s shock.

Hooper reached out and ran his thumb across Banky´s cheek, smiling sadly. “No wonder you´re so hurt baby.”

Banky leaned his head back away from Hooper´s hand. “Thank God she said no.”

Hooper´s eyes widened even more. “You said yes?!”

Banky nodded, looking down. “I didn´t know I was going to say yes. . . I told myself no, I told myself to punch him, that I wasn´t gay, no fucking way was I gay! But then it came out. . . Sure.” He pinched his eyes closed, rubbing at his eyes, sick of holding back the tears but not wanting to let them go. “Sometimes I wonder what if it had happened. . . what if she hadn´t said no. Would we have done it? Would I have? Or would I have run out? Would he have run out? Would he have then been disgusted with me? Would I be disgusted with him?”

Hooper nodded. “And then you wonder. . . what if he found out he felt the same way about you, dropped the girl, and came to you.”

Banky nodded, concentrating on twisting his hands together. “I know. . . stupid huh?”

“It´s not stupid, it´s human nature.” Hooper reached up and ran his hands through Banky´s hair. “I like your hair long, it´s all rugged.”

Banky laughed, looking at Hooper for the first time during their conversation. “Do you?”

Hooper nodded, smiling. “It´s all. . . I´m a bad motherfucker, I am.”

Banky ran his hand through his hair, which was now past his ears and almost to his shoulders. Sighing he leaned back in the couch and lolled his head back, closing his eyes. “So here I am, all by myself in New York.”

“I´m here now, and if you think for one second I´m letting you forget that, you´re more stupid than I thought.”

Banky laughed. “Alright, so here I am, alone save for Hooper in New York. . . and I can´t stop fucking thinking about Holden.”

“Well, honey, he was a big part of your life. Whether you were in love with him or not, he was your best friend for 20 years.”

Banky looked at Hooper for a moment. “How stupid was I to not know, Hoop? How fucking stupid was I to not know how I felt about him?”

Hooper smiled. “You knew, you just didn´t want to admit it to yourself.”

Banky shook his head, his eyes widening. “I didn´t. I completely didn´t fucking know.”

Hooper raised an eyebrow. “If you completely didn´t fucking know, Banky, then you would have punched him when he kissed you.”

“God,” Banky moaned, squeezing his eyes shut. “Why does it still hurt so much?”

“Cause you ran away, Banky.” Hooper reached over, running his hand through Banky´s hair again. This time Banky let him, taking comfort in the gesture. “Cause you didn´t confront it then.”

“I couldn´t,” Banky said, a tear silently finally falling out of his eye. “It hurt too fucking much to look at him.” He took a deep breath and tried to say something else. Instead of words a strangled sob came out and suddenly the torrent of tears was back again.

“Come here,” Hooper said, putting his hand on Banky´s shoulder, pulling him to him. Banky allowed him to pull him into a hug, tucking his head between Hooper´s head and chest. “Shhh, let it out,” Hooper whispered, running his hand through Banky´s hair.

When Banky finally rose up, wiping at his face and eyes disgustedly. Hooper looked at him shaking his head. “Wow, he really hurt you baby.”

Banky looked at him, embarrassed for having cried in front of him. “Yes, Hooper, what the fuck did you think?”

Hooper shrugged. “I don´t know. I thought he´d scared you. I thought your reaction was more to being outted than to him.” He laughed slightly. “I knew you loved him, but I never realized to what depth.”

“Yeah, well,” Banky said, sighing and wiping a final time at his face. “Neither did I.”

After a few moments of silence Hooper clapped his hands together. “I know exactly what you need.”

Banky laughed, having missed Hooper´s ever-readiness to be chipper. “What´s that?”

“Dinner ala Hooper!” He stood up and bounced into the kitchen. “Tell me you have food, honey,” he called over to Banky.

“Yeah,” Banky said as he stood from the couch. “Rummage through whatever, I´m going to go take a shower.”

Forty minutes later Banky was freshly showered and changed into loose fitting jeans and a Superman t-shirt. When he walked in the kitchen his grin widened as he saw the feast before him. “Shit, I had all this? I was pretty sure it was just Ramen noodles and maybe a steak or two.”

Hooper smiled, setting the bowl of green beans down next to the mashed potatoes. “I decided you needed a nice home cooked Southern meal.”

Banky laughed. “What, southern Jersey?!”

“No, the deep south,” Hooper said.

Banky nodded. “So you did go to the New Orleans comicon then?”

Hooper nodded. “You were sorely missed though. . . who else can say Nubian quite like you?”

Banky laughed again, spooning himself some green beans. “I can´t remember the last time I actually had a meal. Usually it´s me in front of the TV with a pizza and a beer.”

“Just you,” Hooper asked, raising an eyebrow. “No hot young New York man beside you?”

Banky sighed, looking at Hooper. “No, but sometimes a woman.” He rolled his eyes at Hooper´s look. “What do you want from me?”

“Banky, you´re gay. Why. . . ”

“Because, Hooper,” Banky said, shaking his head and mixing the butter into his potatoes. “If it´s not him, I don´t know if it´s anyone.”

“Banky Edwards, there are millions of men on this earth. Holden McNeil is not a God unto himself.” Hooper leaned forward and pointed his fork at him. “And, I might add, you are an attractive man, and many men would be lucky to have you.”

“Attractive,” Banky said, opting for lighthearted this go around. “I´m fucking hot!”

Hooper laughed, nodding. “Especially with that hair.”

They ate in companionable silence for a few moments, enjoying their meal. Banky smiled as he watched Hooper pop a large bite of potatoes into his mouth. “How lady like,” he said as a small bit of potato squeezed out of Hooper´s mouth.

“Bitch, I ain´t gotta be lady like in front of you. You´re family.”

Banky sat his fork down, startled to find a lightheartedness in him that he thought he´d lost. “I´ve missed you,” he said, sounding surprised. “I´m. . . I´m glad I ran into you.”

Hooper smiled at him, winking. “I´ve missed you too Banky. . . what I´ve missed most are your homophobic rants. . . ‘Fucking cockknocker! Look at this fucking faggot´!”

Banky´s smile faded slightly as he looked down. “I´m sorry,” he said quietly. “I´m sorry if the way I talked ever offended you. . . ”

Hooper reached across the table and placed his hand over Banky´s. “Honey I was joking. You didn´t offend me. I always knew where you were coming from. I knew you didn´t mean it.”

Banky nodded, smiling and shaking his head. “How do you do it, Hoop? How are you happy all of the time?”

Hooper shook his head. “Honey, I´m not. But sometimes, if you put the face on long enough, it leaks to the rest of you.”

Banky shook his head. “Well, I wish I was like that.”

“You should come home, Banky,” Hooper said quietly, looking him in the eye. “It´s where you belong.”

Banky shook his head, finishing off the last of his meal. “Don´t start, Hoop,” he said, pushing back and standing up. “I´m not ready to face him yet.”

Hooper stood, blocking his path to the den, a determined look on his face. “Will you atleast call him then?”

Banky shook his head. “I can´t, Hooper! You can tell him I´m okay!”

“He thinks you´re DEAD, Banky! Just let him hear your voice! One minute, just let him hear it for one minute!”

“I just can´t, Hooper. Let it go. It´s over. He´s not a part of my life anymore.”

Hooper leveled him with a dubious gaze. “Honey, you forget that you just cried on my shoulder about him. The fuck he´s out of your life.”

Banky let out a groan, covering his face. “I can´t go back to that, Hoop. I can´t go back to the way it was. Not now, now when I know how I feel about him.”

“No one´s asking you to go back to the way it was. I´m just asking you, as a friend, to call him. To let him know you´re okay. Hell, to let yourself know he´s okay.”

“Fuck!” Banky walked over to the phone, picking it up and looking at Hooper. “What´s the fucking number?”

Hooper smiled, cocking his head to one side. “Oh, like you don´t know it by heart.”

Banky mumbled to himself, dialing the ten digits, feeling as if his heart was going to explode. After three rings he was about to hang up when he heard the breathless voice at the other end.

“Hello, hello, don´t hang up, don´t hang up. . . sorry I just walked in the door.”

He closed his eyes, feeling as if the wind had been knocked out of him. He thought his knees would buckle but thankfully Hooper walked up behind him, ready to support him.

“Hello? Anyone there?” Holden asked, laughing. “Mom?”

“Hey,” Banky finally choked out, closing his eyes and resting his head against the cool surface of the wall.

Dead silence.

“Hey, Holden, it´s me. . . ”


Banky felt his own tears form again when he heard the tears in Holden´s voice. “Yeah, it´s me.”

“Oh thank God,” Holden said, barely audible. “And you´re okay?”

Banky remained silent for a moment, debating on what he would say to that.

“Banky, are you okay,” Holden said a little stronger.

Banky smiled, just picturing Holden getting ready to come kick some ass if Banky said he wasn´t. “I´m alright.”

“God, it´s good to hear your voice.”

Banky laughed. “Yeah, you too. . . I have to go Holden.”

“Banky. . . we. . . we just got on the phone. . . ”

“I know, I´m sorry. I can´t do this right now. . . But maybe I´ll call again.”

“Banky please. . . I love you, please don´t hang up on me. . . ”

“I have to Holden, I´ll talk to you later.”

“Bank, wait. . . what´s your number. . . where are you. . . ”

Banky hung up the phone, leaning against the wall with his eyes shut, feeling like his heart was breaking all over again. “God,” he moaned, his hands coming up to cover his face. “I can´t believe how hard that was.”

Hooper reached out and touched the side of Banky´s face, making Banky look at him. “But doesn´t it feel better, just to have heard his voice?”

Banky smiled, straightening up a little. “Yeah,” he said quietly. “And after my heart stops breaking maybe I can enjoy that a little more.” He turned, facing Hooper, and laughed.

Hooper laughed as well, reaching up and taking Banky´s face in his hands. “You were always so funny,” he said, standing on his tip toes and kissing Banky on the forehead quickly.

4 months later

Dear Holden,

How the fuck did we get here? How the fuck, after 20 years of knowing each other inside and out, did we get to the place where I can´t fucking talk to you without feeling like my fucking heart is going to break into a million god damned pieces?

I handled it all wrong. I handled it wrong from the very beginning, right up until the end. I forgot what we were to each other and instead I chose to yell and scream and run. I´ve always done that, you know that. You of all people know that best. You should have seen through my shit, saw fit to confront me on it.

But maybe you didn´t want to hurt me. Maybe you´d rather have me yell at you, rant at you, hurt you in so many ways I can´t even comprehend now that it´s over, then hurt me by telling me the truth.

I didn´t know. At least, not at a conscious level. I think you know that too. In fact, I don´t think there´s anything I can possibly say in this letter that you already don´t know, somewhere inside you, to be the truth. Cause you know me so much better than I´ve ever known myself.

But I never knew I loved you in that way. I knew I cared about you. I knew I didn´t want to see you hurt. I knew I´d kill for you. I knew you felt the same way. But when she came along, and I don´t know why it was her, but when she came along I just went fucking insane. I don´t know what came over me. Maybe it was because she was the first girl you actively pursued. The first one you professed your love for before you fucked her. Maybe it was because she was a dyke, I don´t know. But she bugged me. She bugged me to my very core.

I was convinced it was the comic at first. You spending all that time with her, affecting our work. And I was convinced she was fucking with you. That, as a dyke, it was her duty to fuck with as many men´s heads as she could. I was sure I was right. I was sure she was the bain of all that was evil in the world, and I was going to go to any means necessary to kick that bitch to the curb. Somewhere along the line I stopped caring about if you got hurt in the process, I was so fucking bent on getting her out that I forgot to think about what I was doing could hurt you. And then when I saw I was hurting you, I ignored it. It´s for the better in the end, I´d tell myself. He´ll thank me when it´s over. He´ll see I´m right.

And then I ran into Cohey Lunden, and I had the perfect chance. I had the perfect way to get rid of her once and for all. I never stopped to think that maybe this was something that you should decide. I never thought period, during that whole thing. All I knew is that she was fucking up what we had built over the past 20 years. She was slowly but surely stealing you from me.

It wasn´t til the morning after that I realized just what I´d done to you. I´ve only seen you like that once, maybe twice, since I´ve known you. In so much pain you couldn´t move, couldn´t speak. You couldn´t breath. And I did that to you. I was the cause of it. And you didn´t blame me. You blamed her, you blamed yourself, but you didn´t blame me. You didn´t look at me with anger, you looked at me like ‘save me, help me.´ I wanted to crawl in a hole and die. I did that to you, and you didn´t even see that.

I think I knew a little then. I think it started to occur to me that it was slightly overboard (okay, completely and utterly psychotically overboard) for me to go to such great lengths to get her out of our lives. I´d at one time liked her. We´d had more than a few laughs that night at Meow Mix. But when she threatened the dichotomy of our relationship, suddenly I was this psychotic mess of anger. I think it started to occur to me, but I wouldn´t let it. I pushed it away, refused to acknowledge it.

And then came your stupid plan. Your stupid, psychotic plan. I know where it came from Holden. It came from stupidity. The stupidity that makes you do psychotic things when you´re in love. It came from the same place that made me do to you what I did with Alyssa. I can´t blame you and not blame myself. There is no blame. We were both fucking idiots. All we had to do was talk to each other. . . 20 fucking years of friendship, the best most reliable constant thing I´d had in my life, and down it went in flames cause my stupid gene kicked it in high gear.

And you kissed me, and I knew. I knew right then. Holy fuck me shit, he´s right. I love him. I fucking love him.

I love you, Holden. I guess I always have a little bit. But now that I know, now that I´m forced to accept it, it´s more than just a little bit. So much more. More like all-consuming. More like unshakable. And I can´t look at you, I can´t think of you, I can´t hear you talk. . . without it breaking me a little more.

I´m a shell of a man right now, Holden. I´m a shell, and I´m trying to come back. Hooper´s helping me, and I hope you understand why I won´t let him tell you where I am. I need this right now. I need to work on this without you, cause this is the one thing you can´t fix. If you´re around I´m afraid I´m going to completely crumble. I´m better than I was, but I´m not there yet.

One day I will be, I hope. But mostly, I hope you´ll be able to forgive me.

I´ll love you til the day I die, but maybe one day I won´t feel like I wish I already was when I see you.

Love Always,
Banky Edwards

Banky sat reading his letter for the four thousandth time, wiping at the tears in his eyes to read the last words. Love always. He always would, he knew that. But it would never happen. He realized that now. It wasn´t meant to be. Holden wasn´t that guy.

Putting it in an envelope he scrolled the address of his old abode and put a stamp on it. He set it on the top of his bills and pushed them to the center of the table to be brought down to the mail the next time he went outside.

A knock at the door came and he stood, running his hands down his shirt front, smoothing it. He knew who it was, knew he didn´t need to be concerned with looking his best. This person had seen him at his worst, had seen him through it in fact. But he still smoothed his hair down before opening the door and smiling at him.

“Hey sweetie,” Hooper crooned, leaning over and offering his cheek to Banky to kiss.

Banky laughed and kissed Hooper´s cheek, opening the door and letting him stroll in, that swagger in his step. “Hey, Hoop.”

Hooper looked around the apartment at the array of notebook paper, pens, pencils, and charcoal, raising an eyebrow. “What´s this honey? Building a nest for your eggs?”

Banky laughed, picking up a page and handing it to Hooper. “It´s a project I´m working on.”

Hooper looked at the page of drawings, a comic in the process of being written. “You´ve started writing again,” he said quietly, smiling. “Good for you honey.”

“Yeah,” Banky said, sitting on the couch, bending over and picking up a few stray papers, putting them in a pile on the coffee table, clearing a space to walk in. “It´s all I know how to do, Hoop. I can´t live off of royalties for Bluntman and Chronic forever.”

“Not at New York´s crazy ass inflated prices anyway,” Hooper said, coming and sitting by him. “I´m so proud of you, baby. Picking yourself up like you have. Getting back in the game.”

Banky smiled that brilliant smile of his, making the slightly dark room just a bit brighter. “I wish you´d stop saying that. You make me feel like a fucking child.”

“Awww,” Hooper said, patting Banky on the cheek. “Poor Bank-bank.”

“Fuck off, faggot,” Banky said affectionately, standing and walking into the kitchen, grabbing two beers. “I´m trying to get it done in time for the comicon in Boston. I want to have six issues.”

Hooper raised his eyes. “Honey, that´s only 4 months away. How on God´s green earth are you going to get six issues done in 4 months?”

Banky shrugged. “I´m inspired. You´re looking at the start of number three.”

“Well will wonders never cease,” Hooper said, impressed. “And just how long have you been keeping this secret from me?!”

Banky laughed, scratching at his beard. “A month.”

“A month! You little cuntrag!”

Banky laughed again, ducking as Hooper swatted a pillow at him. “I wanted to wait and see if I could still do it before I showed it to you.”

Hooper gave him a reproachful look. “Well of course you fucking can Banky. I thought you were over this self-hatred self-doubt thing.”

Banky laughed, shrugging. “It´s a hard fucking habit to break, what do you want from me?”

“I´m just giving you shit, baby,” Hooper said affectionately, patting Banky´s leg. “Not too many people bounce back as quickly as you.”

Banky let out a snort. “Quickly? It´s been eight fucking months, Hoop, what are you talking about?”

“Honey, some people never get over shit like this!” Hooper nodded, his eyes serious. “When I broke up with Gary it took me a year to get over him.”

Banky´s eyebrows bunched together. “Gary?”

“Oh, honey, do you not know about Gary?!” Hooper laughed, thinking. “Oh, that might have been before you knew me. Gary was my first love. The girl of my dreams, so to speak. He. . . he left me to go back to his wife.”

Banky´s eyebrows rose. “To his wife?”

Hooper nodded. “Some people deny themselves even after they find out what they truly are. He wasn´t ready to accept that he was gay, was afraid people would find out.” Hooper frowned, remembering. “And I´m not the kind of guy that can un-gay myself to suit someone else.”

Banky laughed. “Unless ya know, it´s for a comic.”

Hooper pursed his lips at him. “Bitch, you know why I do that. It´s made me a lot of money, too.” He smiled slightly. “Besides, I‘ve been thinking about stopping that. About being true to myself for once, being me. That comic´s not me speaking, not really. That comic´s become to be the antithesis of what I am. I don´t believe a word I write in that comic.”

Banky nodded, putting his hand on Hooper´s shoulder. “Whatever you decide I´m sure will be the best.”

He smiled at Banky, putting his hand on top of his. “Thanks, sweetie.” Banky smiled at him and he found himself smiling back. There was just something so beautiful about that man´s smile, it was positively contagious. “So what about you? Any conquests?”

Banky looked away, raising an eyebrow. “Oh, maybe one.”

Hooper situated himself on the couch to face Banky. “Really?! Well come on, bitch, spill!”

Banky laughed, facing him. “It´s not confirmed. Just an interest I have.”

“Who the fuck is it, Mysterio?! Spill the fucking can of worms already!”

Banky laughed again, rubbing his hand over his face. “I´m nervous to. I don´t know what to do about it. It´s someone pretty important to me, and I´m afraid it might ruin the relationship.”

Hooper frowned. “Baby, you know what happened the last time you bottled it all inside yourself. Just be honest to this person, who ever it is, Banky. If you´re honest and they bail, that´s their loss. You don´t need that kind of person in your life anyway.”

Banky frowned, still unsure. “Are you sure? Cause if they don´t feel the same and it fucks up our friendship. . . I don´t know if I can handle it.”

Hooper patted his hand, smiling. “Don´t worry baby, you´ve always got me.”

Banky laughed. “Yeah, that´s what I´m afraid of.”

Hooper looked at him, confused. “What?”

Banky shook his head, laughing. “Nevermind. So I should just go for it, then?”

Hooper nodded. “Baby you have to. If you don´t you´ll never know.”

“Alright,” Banky said, running his hand over his beard again, nodding. His eyes flicked to Hooper and then back down, his mind running a million miles a minute. Finally he shrugged and just went for it. He brought Hooper forward by the back of his neck, mashing his lips to his. When he felt the short black man respond he deepened their kiss, getting his tongue in. His hand lifted and cupped Hooper´s cheek, turning till Hooper´s back was against the couch, leaning into him. It became more heated, more feverish, harder to breath.

His hand wondered down Hooper´s taught body, feeling the muscular build beneath the thin black long-sleeved shirt, feeling himself grow hard. He felt Hooper´s hands wind in his hair, pulling him even closer, deepening their kiss still more. He let out a guttural moan as he felt the bulge in Hooper´s pants, his own stiffness apparent through his jeans resting on Hooper´s hip.

As if reading each other´s minds they both sank to the floor, kneeling, taking off each other´s shirts. Mashing their naked torsos together, unable to stop kissing. He reached for Hooper´s belt first, fumbling clumsily around to get it unbuckled, never breaking contact with his lips. By the time he´s started on the zipper Hooper already had Banky´s pants undone and was caressing his butt through the thin silky material of his boxers.

“Wait,” Hooper said, pulling back when Banky got his pants undone. He put a hand to Banky´s chest, pushing him back slightly. “Are you sure?”

Banky met his eyes, smiling and cocking his head. “I still want to know what a Nubian is.” Hooper laughed despite himself, but pushed Banky back as he tried to advance again. Banky sighed and sat back on his haunches. “Look, Hooper. . . I don´t know, but I just realized one day that I wanted you. I was talking about you just now. . . and I didn´t know how to tell you, so I just kissed you.”

Hooper nodded. “That´s as far as it has to go, we can stop right here.”

Banky frowned, leaning back slightly. “Are you saying you´re not attracted to me?”

Hooper laughed. “Bitch, you just felt how hard I was.”

Banky laughed, nodding. “Right.”

“I´m saying I don´t want to lose you as a friend. . . I want you to be sure you want to go here before we do this, cause I don´t wanna be a regret in the morning.”

“No regrets,” Banky said, leaning forward and kissing Hooper softly, holding his face in his hands. “I want this, Hoop. I´ve known about this for a while. I´m sure.”

When Banky leaned forward again Hooper let him. When Banky stood up and held out his hand, Hooper took it. When Banky led him to the bedroom he followed. And when Banky pulled him onto the bed, he fell into him, losing himself as well.

4 months later

“Hey. I have to admit, I´m surprised to see you here, Banky.”

Banky looked up, the shock on his face extremely apparent. “Alyssa.”

She smiled at him, throwing down his comic. “Guess you don´t have to deal with being a tracer anymore, huh?”

Banky found himself smiling. “Guess not.”

“I´m sorry,” she said, looking him in the eyes. “It was never my intention to come between you two.”

Banky smiled sadly, shaking his head. “It´s me who´s sorry. I should have left myself out of it. Never crossed that line.”

“You loved him, Banky. I should have seen that. . . that I can understand.” She smiled again, laughing. “I sure as hell did.”

Banky reached out, taking her hand. “I´m sorry for what I did to you Alyssa. At the time I didn´t know my reasons, but I should have figured it out. I should have realized that your love for him was true, that it was me who was causing the problems.”

She squeezed his hand. “I know,” she said, and for the first time Banky noticed how her pixie face might be the most adorable thing on the planet. “Have you spoken to him?”

Banky shook his head. “Here and there. . . but not often. I wasn´t ready to face him.”

She nodded. “I haven´t either. I still don´t know how I feel about him.”

He smiled, looking past he at the growing line. Sighing he faced her again. “I wish we weren´t at this damn convention. . . I think we´d have a lot in common to talk about.”

She laughed, looking behind her. “Yeah. I have to get to my table too.” She smiled, reaching out and touching his cheek. “Be happy, Banky. You deserve it.”

He smiled at her as she left. “You too,” he said quietly, watching her walk to her table. Turning his attention to the next customer he smiled at him.


“So where´s Holden McNeil?”

Banky took a deep breath, wishing this fan would stop asking questions and just let him sign the fucking comic and go away. “I don´t know, got out of the business I guess.”

“So, what, you don´t talk to him much anymore?”

“No,” Banky said, aggravated, his eyes roaming the convention. “Not anymore. . . ” He trailed off as he noticed him, standing behind the lines. Off to the side, inconspicuous. For some reason, just drawing Banky´s attention.

He smiled at Banky and Banky felt himself smile back half way. He raised an eyebrow. Holden held up his comic, Baby Dave, holding a thumb up. Banky smiled, laughing, touched by Holden´s approval. Not many men could get away with that lame thumbs-up gesture, but to Banky it didn´t matter. It was as good as gold coming from Holden.

Banky looked to his right, jerking his head to get Holden´s attention, pointing behind him. Holden looked and saw what Banky was pointing to, smiling and shrugging. Banky held up his hands, smiling and bringing his fingers together.

‘Share a moment, Holden,´ it said. ‘She´s right there.´

Holden held up his fingers, crossed. Banky answered with two thumbs up, smiling softly. He watched Holden walk over to her, feeling the all too familiar feeling of sadness wash over him. But this time it was more like nastalgia. Like he almost missed the pain he´d felt for Holden. Holden would always hold a large portion of his heart, but he didn´t hold all of it anymore.

There was a good deal left over for a certain other person at that convention. The least likely suspect.

After the signing was over he went into the room where Hooper was holding the panel, nodding and winking at him from the seclusion of the back row. He saw Hooper´s stoney mask falter slightly as he tried not to smile and nodded in his direction.

This was Hooper X´s last foray into the comic world. . . next year came the new Hoop. . . Banky was pretty sure he´d be well received, if by no one else than himself.

He knew before he looked who it was that sat next to him. He smiled and turned to face him. “Ready for the act,” he asked.

Holden laughed, nodding his head. “With you? Always.”

Banky smiled, looking forward again. “The rage doesn´t come til later,” he said, looking back at him. “Has he told you?”

Holden held a steady gaze with him, smiling and nodding. “About you two? Yeah.”

Banky smiled, looking back at Hooper. “I thought he would.” He took a deep breath, laughing. “Who´d have thought right? Me, first of all, being gay. . . And second of all. . . with Hooper? The bitchiest fag on earth.”

Holden let out a laugh, covering his mouth in embarrassment as he realized the whole auditorium had heard him. Banky didn´t have that problem, having mastered the art of laughing silently. His face scrunched up and he crossed his arms, holding the laughter threatening to come bubbling out of him in. Finally calming he turned to face Holden again, who was still chuckling slightly. “I´ve missed you,” he said quietly.

Holden faced Banky, tears from laughter, or were they from pain, glistening in his eyes. “Me too, Bank. More than you know.”

Banky reached down and squeezed Holden´s hand, facing Hooper and smiling at him. “I have an idea, actually,” he said, laughing.

“Can we get together after this, Banky? Please? Catch up?”

Banky looked at Holden, surprised at how the smile on his face wasn´t forced at all. At how genuinely happy he was to see Holden. “Yeah,” he said. “But let´s put this on hold. . . here it comes.”

“This genre is hell bent on portraying the stereotype of the black man, the weaker man, the man who cow tows to the white man. . . ”

Holden stood up, his smile wide as tears glistened in his eyes. “Oh, come on, that´s a bunch of Hogwash. . . ”

[ waiting for the other shoe to drop ]
by kHo

The thing about Banky is that he´s so damn passionate. He´s passionate about everything. About Holden, about love, about loyalty, about friendship, about trueness to one´s self, but he´s also just as passionate about comics, movies, and dick and fart jokes. It´s almost a little like that saying “the boy who cried wolf.” He´ll argue just as fervently, just as ardently, about whether or not Archie is fucking Mr. Weatherbee as he will about Peace in the Middle East.

His tenacity, as I like to refer to it, has made it difficult for people to tell whether or not he truly feels this strongly about everything, or whether he just likes to argue. While this is true in some instances, that´s not the Banky Edwards I know, and I know him quite well. The one cardinal rule I´ve learned to help me gauge Banky´s stance on a subject is to concentrate not on what he says, but on what he doesn´t say. The more viscerally Banky feels about something, the less he´ll say. The more he talks about it, the less he feels. It sounds backwards, sure, but if you think about it, it makes sense. At least, for Banky it makes sense.

He´s built his life around not letting people in. He curses like a sailor, is always bitching about one thing or another, and never offers up anything personal about himself. He comes across as a bitter angry man, disgruntled by the world as a whole, and on some levels he is. Mostly though, in more ways than one, he´s afraid of getting hurt. If he doesn´t put his heart out, open and exposed, it´s impossible for someone to pick it up and rip it apart. I understand where he´s coming from, I really do. I´m just the type of guy that´s too in love with love to do that. If you don´t put your heart out there, no one can tear it up, sure: No one can pick it up either, and it´s always been worth it to me. I´ve seen love, and I want it.

The problem is that the only man Banky ever truly let in is the same one that picked his heart up and ran over it with a steamroller. Holden didn´t mean to mind you, please believe me on that. I was angry with him for a while for what he did to Banky. I didn´t know what exactly had happened, not until Banky told me, but I knew Holden had done something stupid. Holden always did something stupid. Soon after it happened though, he came to me and I looked in his eyes and saw that not only had he broken Banky´s heart, but his own. Perhaps even to a greater degree cause he lost the girl that night too.

I knew it would happen. Call me a fucking prophet, but I knew this day would come. I met them, about five years ago, at the New York Comicon during my first year as the white-hating militant Hooper X. Holden was open, friendly, and talkative. Banky stood there and stared at me, waiting for the other shoe to drop. Banky was always waiting for the other shoe to drop. I guess he thought I´d attack them, what with me being a white-hating militant and all. I was afraid after they found out I was gay they wouldn´t want me around anymore, but they took it surprisingly well. After, that is, Banky´s initial shock followed by the screamed “you´re a fucking faggot?!”

It didn´t take long for me to figure out Banky was gay. My gaydar is in stellar shape, after all. It took even less time for me to figure out he was in love with Holden. Hell, I might have gone for him then if I´d thought I stood a chance, but it was clear beyond a shadow of a doubt that his heart belonged to the terminally clueless Holden. I think that´s pretty much when I fell for him. Once I was able to see past the bullshit front he put up I found that he was a decent guy with a heart of gold, though covered by armor and steel it was. His heart belonged to Holden though, and I knew I had no chance. Hell, Banky didn´t even realize he was gay, who was I to him?

Then Alyssa came, and I knew it was coming. I knew the precarious line Banky had been walking was getting harder to stand on. One of two things was going to happen: Banky was going to further repress his feelings so much so that I was afraid he´d retreat inside himself to never be heard from, or he was going to blurt it out to Holden. Neither one would be good, but I hoped it would be the latter.

And then Holden drank the retard juice. The day after it happened Banky came by my house to tell me he was leaving. I asked him why, but I already knew. His eyes always gave him away. The sadness permeated the air, hanging like a dark heavy cloud. It was almost enough to make me cry for him. He said it was time to move on. That he couldn´t face him right now. He didn´t clarify who “him” was, but I knew, and I´m pretty sure he knew I knew.

The next four months were pure hell. Thank God I´ve lived the lie of Hooper X long enough to know how to act, cause that´s what I had to do, act. Act like the rock they needed me to be. Alyssa, crying on my shoulder for having lost him. Holden, weeping and broken, worried sick about Banky. Worrying that he was dead, that he would kill himself. Worrying that he´d never see him again. Making Holden eat when I knew he wasn´t. Making Alyssa realize she was still whole, that she could move on. The whole time missing Banky, worried about him myself. Telling Holden that of course Banky wouldn´t kill himself, and then having nightmares depicting just that. By the time I saw him again I was at my wit´s end.

I thought I was dreaming when I saw him walk out of the coffee shop, a bag in one hand and a coffee in another. I thought I´d certainly gone insane over the past four months, to be seeing him on the street in New York like that. He turned to hold the door open for the person going in after him and I knew in that instant that it was him. When the person didn´t thank him he let out a string of expletives so long and loud sailors would have cringed. It was so beautiful I almost wept. Banky was there, he was okay, and he was still cursing up a storm. Same old Banky.

Before I´d even decided if it was best to let him go on living in oblivion or yanking him back to reality, to his home, I was calling his name. He turned and smiled at me and finally everything felt okay again. I could stop worrying, and I could tell Holden he was alright. He tried to escape from me several times, and I was afraid he might bolt right there, but I just tried my best to be the sassy faggot he knew me to be and it worked. I made him laugh, and he let me back in.

I think I half lived in New York over the next few months. Making sure he was okay, trying to help him heal himself. Trying to give him some semblance of self-confidence again. If it was possible I fell even more in love with him over that time. Seeing him vulnerable, and willing to be that in front of me, moved me in ways I didn´t know were possible. He let me hold him when he was crying and I knew I was gone.

Even as vulnerable and devastated as he was, Banky wasn´t the type to respond to soothing voices and kind words. You had to kick the shit out of him to get him to listen to you. I told him the things he needed to hear, and they weren´t always easy for him to hear, or for me to say.

I don´t know when the turning point was but when he cut his hair back to it´s original length I knew we´d reached it. It wasn´t going to be all roses and flowers, mind you, but at least we´d turned one of the many corners. Maybe he´d looked in the mirror and finally said, “I´m good enough, I´m smart enough, and gosh darn it, people like me.” Maybe some hot young thing had hit on him. Maybe he´d gotten laid, who knows. The point is that one day I looked at him and the darkness in his eyes had eased up. He was easier to talk to, easier to make laugh, easier to be with period.

Being home wasn´t easy though. When I got home from New York that first time I´d seen him again and told Holden he went ballistic. He´d picked up his car keys like he was going to drive there right then and there. It broke my heart to not be able to tell him where he was, but I´d given Banky my word. Every weekend I´d go to Banky´s and when I´d get back Holden would be there, looking at me like a sad puppy. Begging me for details. “You don´t have to tell me where he is, just tell me what he´s doing. How is he? How does he look? Is he okay? Will he ever be able to forgive me?” I´d answer the other questions, but the last one I never could answer. I couldn´t tell the future, I´m not a fucking sage. I´m just a black gay man from Red Bank, New Jersey.

It was difficult for me to be with Banky, not because of how angry he could get or how depressed he was. Don´t get me wrong, it was hard for me to bite back angry retorts and nasty comebacks, and frequently his depression would seep into me and bog me down. What I´m talking about though was the slow progression of my feelings towards him. I´d always been attracted to him, albeit inexplicably. Why should I like him, he´s nasty, a gay-basher, and always angry. I guess I liked the challenge, I don´t know. Something about him made me feel feisty, and how I do love being a feisty girl. But seeing him through this shoved that crush into overdrive, into down right love.

That night, and I´ll always refer to it as “that night,” when I´d walked into his apartment and found those comic pages lying around, I knew something had happened inside himself. Something had finally clicked in him and he was all right. He says it was me, he says I saved him. I didn´t though, I didn´t save him. He saved himself. All I did was sit by and throw him the life preserve when he got in the deep water. It was all up to him whether or not he´d take it.

Sometimes I wonder if that´s why we´re together now. I wonder if he feels obligated. I wonder if his feelings of gratitude were transposed into feelings of love, because he was confused. I tried like hell to resist him that night, but I just couldn´t. I´d spent too many years imagining what it would be like. I´d pined for him far too long to be gentlemanly. My pining for him was nothing like his for Holden´s, but still, my chivalry didn´t stand a chance when offered a taste of what I´d longed for for five years.

He was so sexy lying there on his bed, biting his lip and looking up at me uncertainly. I was his first, you see. The first man he´d kissed, truly kissed. The first man he´d let touch him in any way other than in friendship. The first man he´d allowed below the belt, so to speak. The first time he came it was in my mouth, and I don´t know if it was the euphoria speaking or Banky, but he was professing his love for me. I wanted to say them back, but he was pulling me up to him, kissing me so recklessly that the words flew from my mouth.

Fighting is not the only thing Banky does without abandon. He also kisses with enough passion to take your breath away for minutes at a time. His hands are made of pure silk and fit perfectly around me as he begins to return the favor. His eyes never break away, he never even blinks I don´t think. He keeps saying he loves me, mumbling it into my neck, into my mouth, saying it as he brings me to my orgasm. We didn´t fuck the first night, I don´t think he was ready for that.

Him saying he loved me hurt so much because I didn´t know if he meant it. Some men just say that in the heat of the moment. I didn´t know if Banky was that kind of man, but most of all, I was worried his feelings of love were fleeting. I was worried that I was a proximity infatuation, and that his feelings would soon fade.

The first time I realized he meant it was months after that first time. He continued to say them during sex, but never under any other circumstances. It was after the Comicon in Boston, where he unleashed Baby Dave. I decided it was time to test him, for himself just as much for me. I told Holden we´d be there, that he should come. I told him Banky wouldn´t know he was coming, but that I felt he was finally ready to see him. It was hard to do, and I was scared beyond words at what would happen. We´d been pretty happy the past few months, but he´d never been faced with his former love until that day. I was terrified that he´d go back to him, or at the very least, realize he didn´t love me.

After the comicon was over we went out to dinner, me, Holden, and him. Banky couldn´t stop smiling, and I had myself convinced he would leave me that night or soon there after. He was smiling at Holden, laughing, joking around. He was the same Banky he´d always been before the shit happened. When we were done with dinner Holden invited Banky to a bar, to “talk,” just the two of them. Banky had looked at me and shrugged, I assume asking me if I minded. I wanted to scream no, it wasn´t okay. I wanted to shove Holden, knock him in his jaw. Banky is mine, you whore, you can´t have him. But I didn´t, I let them go. I felt like I was watching him walk out of my life.

He got home around 2 that morning. . .

Banky opened the door quietly, stepping through it and shutting it behind him. Smiling to himself he walked over to the couch where Hooper was asleep in front of the TV. Instead of waking him he sat down by his feet and flipped the channel to TNT, where an old Burt Reynolds movie, Smokey and the Bandit, was playing.

Hooper woke up at a particularly loud laugh that came out when the car chase began. He looked at the TV and saw Burt Reynolds smirking face and laughed to himself. Banky had always been a little bit in love with him. “Hey,” he said, reaching out and taking Banky´s hand.

Banky smiled and squeezed his hand, turning the volume down on the TV. “Sorry, I didn´t mean to wake you up.”

Hooper sat up, rubbing at his eyes, yawning. “What time is it?”

Banky shrugged, looking back at the TV, drawn back into the movie. “Fucked if I know,” he said.

“Time flies when you´re with Holden,” Hooper said quietly, frowning and looking down in his lap as he repositioned himself into a sitting position.


Hooper shook his head. “Nothing.”

Banky looked at him, having heard him perfectly clear. “Bullshit, nothing.”

Hooper sighed. “Let´s just get this over with, okay?”

Banky looked at him, pinching his expressive eyebrows together. “Get what fucking over with?”

”Save me the ‘it´s not you, it´s me´ shit, Banky. Let´s just say it was nice while it lasted,” Hooper said, standing and starting to walk past Banky, hoping he would last until the bathroom before the tears started.

Banky´s hand flew out, catching Hooper by the arm. “Woah, sit the fuck down, Hoop,” he spat out, angry. “What the fuck are you talking about, nice while it lasted?”

“Look, I don´t want to drag this out. I´ll just get my shit and go. . . ”

“Wait a god damned minute,” Banky yelled, standing up and blocking Hooper´s path to the bedroom. “What just happened?”

“Look, you love him. I always knew that. I deluded myself into thinking you loved me too and. . . ”

“What´s got you so fucking upset? I don´t get this!”

Hooper sighed, walking back over to the couch. “I´m saving you the pain of breaking up with me, Banky.”

Banky turned to face Hooper, anger written all over his face. “What the fuck man?! Saving me the pain?! What the fuck are you talking about?! I have no fucking intention of breaking up with you!”

Hooper looked up at Banky, shaking his head. “Honey, cut the bullshit.”

“YOU cut the bullshit!” Banky angrily walked away, only to come back and sit down next to Hooper. “Hoop, just tell me, flat out. . . are you unhappy with me? Are you looking for an excuse to get out of this?”

Hooper covered his face, wiping at his tears, cursing himself. “I´m happy, but I know you´re not.”

“You don´t know SHIT, Hoop!” Banky reached out and grabbed Hooper´s hand, yanking it away from his face. “This is about Holden, right?”

Hooper laughed. “Who else?”

Banky shook his head, calming down a little bit. “You think I´m still in love with him? You think that because I saw him tonight I´m going to leave you and be with him?”

Hooper nodded. “It´s what you´ve dreamed of. Who am I to deny you your dream?”

Banky was silent for a few moments, collecting himself. He took a deep breath and let it out in a puff. “Hooper,” he started.

“Don´t. You don´t have to explain. I saw it coming,” Hooper said, standing up again.

Banky stood up quickly, blocking Hooper´s path again. “Hold the fuck on. You think that after a year, after the hardest year of my life, I can go back to what was? You think that after four months of being with you I´m going to just fucking drop you the instant I see him again?!” He shook his head. “Christ, Hooper, I love you! Don´t you fucking SEE THAT?!”

Hooper looked at him for a long moment, tears falling down his face. “You. . . You love me?”

Banky smiled slowly, nodding. “Yes, you fucking cock-knocker.”

Hooper laughed, shaking his head. “When you say that it´s just so damn sexy.”

Banky shrugged, smile widening. “Now will you stop saying this bullshit about leaving me? You can´t leave me, I won´t allow you to.”

Hooper looked at him, determined to make sure he was wrong. “And if Holden comes back, and tells you he loves you, tells you he wants to be with. . .”

“Look, Hoop,” Banky said, taking Hooper´s hands in his. “I can´t say I don´t love him anymore. I always will. I have for 20 years.” He leaned forward, an inch away from Hooper´s face. “But that doesn´t mean I love you less. That doesn´t mean I want to lose you.”

“But if he says he´s ready to be with you. . .”

Banky´s hands reached up, wiping at Hooper´s tears. “I´ll tell him he´s too fucking late. He´s missed that fucking trolley. I´m with you now.”

Hooper finally smiled, leaning forward and kissing him. “I love you, Banky Edwards.”

Banky smiled at him, playfully raising his eyebrows. “You fucking well better.” He leaned forward, gently pulling Hooper´s face towards him, kissing him slowly. He raised back and leaned his forehead to Hooper´s. “I love you, I´m sorry I never said it before, but I do. This is the happiest I´ve been in my life, Hoop, and it´s because of you. I will never leave you, not even for Holden fucking McNeil.”

Holden had sold him the rights to Bluntman and Chronic that night. He knew Banky had always wanted to do something more with it, and Holden wasn´t in that place anymore. Apparently he´d been approached by Miramax to do a movie, and he´d directed them to Banky. Now that Banky had the rights to Bluntman and Chronic that movie might actually happen. I can´t say I want it to, I think Miramax will fuck it up, just like they do most of the “from comic to movie” films. But if it makes Banky happy, fuck it.

I can´t say I never worry about it anymore. I can´t say I never wonder “what if.” What if Holden does decide he wants Banky. What if Banky decides he wants to pursue Holden. He´s getting to be an old pro at the whole “gay” thing. The boy can make me come just by looking at me sometimes. He does things to me that make me crazy, and they make me not ever want to be sane again. I love him so much it hurts.

He´s still the same guy though. He still does the dick and fag jokes, but I would be sad if that ever changed. It was part of the reason I´d fallen for him in the first place. His utter lack of respect and tact was for some reason what drew me to him. Endeared me to him I guess. Maybe it was because I knew he didn´t mean it. Maybe it was because he was actually damn funny. Maybe I´m a glutton for punishment, who knows, but he´s got me. He´s got all of me.

If only I could stop waiting for the other fucking shoe to drop.

[ e p i p h a n y ]
by kHo

I raised my hand to knock on the door but hesitated. He´d sounded so odd on the phone, so unlike himself. He´d spoken in a rushed hush, rambling a bit at times. I reached in my pocket and pulled out my key chain. I frowned slightly at the fact that I still had the key, but shook my head and put it into the hole, turning and opening the door.

*I need to see you Banky. It´s important. I can´t go on like this, I just can´t. I have to see you. Please Bank, please. Please see me.*

~Fuck, Holden, it´s 2 o´clock in the morning~

*I have to see you, Bank. I can´t take it.*

~Holden? Are you okay man? Are you crying?~

*I don´t even know. . . I´m either laughing or crying, I don´t even know anymore. Please.*

~Alright, Holden. . . I´ll be there. It´ll take me like 2 hours to get there, but I´ll be there.~

*Thank you*



~You´re not going to do anything stupid before I get there, are you?~

I felt a shudder wrack through my body as I stepped through the door into the room I hadn´t been in for two years. Shutting the door quietly behind me I looked around, trying to calm my stomach down. My eyes rested on the couch and I caught the top of his head. He didn´t turn at the sound of the door, he didn´t move an inch.

~Please don´t let me find him dead, God. Please don´t do that to me, I couldn´t take that.~

Slowly, in a trance, I walked over to the couch, hesitating before I rounded the corner. He still hasn´t moved. Finally I close my eyes and walk around in front of him, turning and facing him, steeling myself. Opening my eyes I almost fall down out of relief when I meet his eyes. I allow myself to laugh, praying it won´t turn maniacal. “What the fuck, Holden,” I said, sliding my keys in my pocket and sitting beside him. “You just let people come into your apartment and you don´t even turn to see who it is?”

He smiled slightly and I sobered slightly, realizing maybe the hardest part wasn´t over. “I knew it was you,” he said quietly.

“Well, aren´t you the fucking prophet,” I said, smiling and putting my hand on his shoulder. When his eyes slid off of mine and began to stare at the void before his face I could literally feel the pain in him. I stood up, clearing my throat. “How about some coffee? I just drove two hours. . . ”

“Two and a half.”

I smile, relieved to see that he was still somewhat grounded in reality. “I just drove two and a half hours, then, and my fucking eyes are about to be glued shut.”

“You know where it is,” Holden said quietly, still not looking at me. “You know where everything is.”

~Christ, what is this? Why is he all of a sudden speaking as if he´s in post-traumatic stress syndrome?~

I nod, striding over to the kitchen, aware I was intentionally delaying what was to be the inevitable. I needed a moment to collect myself, shake the cobwebs off of my brain. I´d never been more scared in my life than I had been in that car ride over here. Convinced I´d find him beaten, broken, bruised, or dead. He´d never sounded like that before. In the tenure of our friendship he´d never uttered the word please, unless of course it was to be facetious. He´d never had to say please. He´d always known I was there. Surely he had to know that even after the year we didn´t speak I´d still do anything for him.

The coffee was of course still in the same place as it always was. The coffee cups were in the same place as well. I laughed a little to myself, always having been amused by Holden´s anal retentiveness and resistance to any form of change. As I waited for the coffee to brew I dug through the fridge, pulling out some cold cuts and the mayonnaise, making us two turkey sandwiches. Mine with mayonnaise, his with mayonnaise and mustard.

When it was done I piled the two sandwiches in my left hand, finagling the coffees in my right so I could carry it all in one trip. As I rounded the couch I was once again assaulted by the wave of sadness radiating off of him but grinned through it and sat down beside him. He´d tell me when he was ready.

He smiled and took the sandwich and coffee from me, setting the coffee on the table and peeking inside the sandwich. His smile widened and he looked at me. “You remembered the mustard.”

I laughed, nodding my head. “Well, twenty years of fixing you sandwiches and you start to remember things, motherfucker.”

“You always remember,” Holden said quietly, setting the sandwich, untouched, on the table beside the coffee. I watched him and took a bite of the sandwich, not really hungry. “You´ve always been like that. Always remembering everything, never letting me down. Always there for me. . . ”

When I see the tear fall I don´t know why I was surprised or why it hit me like a ton of bricks. I should have been expecting it, what with the way he was acting and all. “Hey,” I said, resting my right hand on his shoulder and leaning over to deposit the half-eaten sandwich on the table. “Hey, what´s going on, Holden?”

He shook his head, squeezing his eyes shut. “I fucked it all up, didn´t I? I ruined it.”

I swallowed the remains of the bite I had in my mouth, watching him, afraid to look away. “What did you fuck up, Holden? What did you ruin,” I asked, speaking softly. Suddenly I realized I sounded like Sister Mary from school. Always so serene, always understanding, but always asking questions, always gathering the information. Taking it whether you wanted to give it to her or not, you never realizing it. I tightened my grip on his shoulder. “Holden. . . ”

“Us, Bank. Us, I ruined us.”

For a moment my mouth wouldn´t form words and all I could do is sit there and dumbly shake my head. “I´m here now, Holden. You didn´t ruin us.” I smiled at him, wishing he´d just fucking look at me. Sighing I continued. “You just put us on different paths. Derailed me for a little while. But I´m back on the track now.”

“But that´s just it,” he said, his voice rising slightly and finally flicking his eyes to mine. Suddenly I wished he hadn´t, the pain in those eyes was almost too much for me to take. “I derailed you. I hurt you. I fucked up. You, who was always there, always remembered the mustard, always the one reminding me to wipe my ass.”

I laughed. “I don´t remember ever having to remind you to do that. . . ”

“It´s a metaphor, Bank,” he said quietly, shutting his eyes and shaking his head, rubbing furiously at his face. “You always caught my mistakes, didn´t let me go out there into the real world and make an ass of myself.”

“Well, if I remember correctly,” Banky said, laughing, hoping to God I was reacting the right way. “Sometimes you did anyway.”

“And me,” Holden continued, as if I´d never said anything. “Never fucking learning!” He opened his eyes and the tears began to flow down his face. “Never fucking seeing.” He laid his head back and let out a strangled sob, my heart clenching painfully. “I wasted so much time. Fuck, I lost you, Banky. I fucking lost you.”

“Holden, I´m right fucking here,” I said strongly, tightening my grip on his shoulder.

He shook his head, still not looking at me. “It´s not the same, Banky. It´ll never be the same. I fucked it all up. You moved out. You moved away. You walked out of my life and it´s all my fault. I ruined us. It´s all my fault.”

I felt a lump form in my throat but shook my head, forcing my voice past it. “It´s not all your fault, Holden. I had a part in it too.”

“It´s all my fault,” he whispered. I don´t think I´ve heard more pain encompassed by one person ever in my life.

“No, Holden. It´s not all your fault. It´s mine just as much.”

“I did it all wrong, Bank,” he said, finally looking at me. “I should have come to you. I threw 20 years down the fucking drain by not.”

I shook my head, running my hand down his arm, trying to ease his pain, cursing myself for not knowing how. “But I should have too. I could have just told you. I. . . I didn´t realize it at the time, but. . . I shoulda talked to you.” I paused, taking a deep breath, admitting something I´d never admitted before. “I shouldn´t have run away like I did. Like a fucking coward.”

He leaned forward, burying his head in his hands, crying in earnest. “But ultimately, in the end, it wasn´t what you did that ruined it,” he said quietly. “It was me.”

I ran my hand over his back, feeling my eyes fill with tears. “Don´t do this to yourself, Holden. It´s over and I´m still here. I´m sorry.” He quieted slightly as I continued to rub his back, taking deep breaths. I felt a tear run down my face and reached up quickly to wipe it away. He was already in enough pain, he didn´t need to see me crying. “I´m sorry I ran, Holden. I shouldn´t have. I should have tried to understand.”

He laughed slightly, shaking his head. “I don´t think a better man than you exists, Banky.” He took a deep breath and rubbed at his face again. “You have nothing to apologize for.”

For a few minutes we sat in silence, him breathing deeply, trying to regain control, me continuously rubbing circles in his back, thinking. Finally I felt him rise up. He looked at me slightly, and I saw the old Holden in there, sheepishly apologizing for losing it like he had. I smiled at him. “What happened, Holden?”

Holden sighed, reaching up half-heartedly and making a cursory swipe at his tears. “I saw Alyssa at the premier of Bluntman and Chronic last week.”

~Aha. So that´s what this is.~

“Did you talk to her?”

He smiled, shaking his head. “Yeah. . . no. Not really. We said hey. Asked how we were doing. Hugged. Kissed her on her cheek.” He laughed slightly. “Didn´t bother me. I was fine with seeing her. It was. . . it was good to see her.”

I looked at him peculiarly for a moment, confused by his reaction. He sounded sincere. He said that without equivocation, without looking away from me. “So. . . so then what´s. . . ”

“Cause it finally dawned on me, Bank,” Holden said, sitting up straighter and taking my hand in his. I watched him take my hand, uncertain where this was going but getting a bad feeling in my gut. “Suddenly it was so clear. . . it was like an epiphany.”

I laughed nervously. “I don´t like it when you have epiphanies, Holden.”

He shook his head. “But this time I´m gonna do it right. This time I´m talking to you.”

“Holden. . . ”

“Shh,” he said quietly, smiling and putting a finger over my mouth. “Let me get it out.” Letting his finger drop from my mouth he cupped my cheek and, God help me, I think I leaned into it. “I finally saw what I should have realized a long time ago.”

I shook my head and his hand dropped from my cheek. “Holden. . . ”

“Bank,” he said, and there he was. There was the Holden I´d known for all these years, looking at me as he always had when he was trying to say something and I kept interrupting. “Shut up.”

I laughed, looking down at where he held my hand. “Sorry.”

He took a deep breath and I looked back up at him, simultaneously dreading and anxiously waiting for him to continue. “I saw what had been in front of my eyes my whole life but I´d been unwilling to admit to myself.” I saw him hesitate and almost interrupted again but he gave me that look again and I smiled and shut my mouth for good. “I love you, Banky,” he said quietly, his hand back on my cheek. “I always have. You know that.”

I nodded. “I know,” I said quietly.

“But I never realized how, Banky,” he continued, and suddenly I wanted him to stop. I wanted him to shut up, and take it back. I didn´t want to hear anything else he had to say. “I never realized I was in love with you.”

I shook my head, pulling back. “Holden, don´t.”

“Banky. . . ”

“No,” I said forcefully, untangling my hand from his. “Holden, you´re upset, and your fucked up right now. Your mixing your feelings. Whatever you´re feeling, it´s not what you´re saying. You´re confused and. . . ”

He shook his head and smiled at me. “Bank. . . ”

I shook my head again, feeling my pulse quicken tenfold. “You´re mixing your feelings for Alyssa into me, you´re not thinking clearly. . . ”

“I´ve never been more clear in my life,” he said, locking eyes with me.

“No,” I said, and damn it if a tear didn´t fall then. “Holden, you can´t mean this, you´re not in your right mind. . . ”

He reached out again and placed his finger over my mouth again and I shut my mouth. “I´ve never been more certain of anything in my life. I´m stone-cold sober and clear as a bell.”

I felt another tear fall out of my eye and I cursed myself for being so fucking weak. “Holden,” I choked out, hating that I sounded as weak as I felt. “Don´t do this to me. . .”

Before I could even comprehend what he was doing he leaned forward and kissed me, and God help me. God help me, I wanted him. I wanted him and I still loved him. I felt a sob escape through my chest and I pushed him away. “Don´t do this, Holden.”

He grabbed both of my hands and positioned himself closer to me. He smiled at me and I couldn´t tear my eyes away from him. “I love you,” he whispered, his face inches from mine. I closed my eyes and yet the tears still managed to fall. “I love you with everything in me. I´m sorry it took me so long to see that.”

I shook my head, trying to not believe him. Trying to convince myself that he was just confused. This was not happening. I felt his breath on my cheek just before he kissed my cheek. I felt him kiss my forehead next, and suddenly the feelings I thought I´d left behind washed over me again and I was rendered helpless. By the time he made his way to my mouth again all of my emotions were at the surface again and I couldn´t help it. I kissed him back.

It was the sweetest kiss I´ve ever felt in my life. Perhaps it was because it was the one kiss I´d always wanted and had never gotten. When he kissed me that night two years before it had been quick, rough. It had been without feeling, and it had been fleeting. This kiss was different. This kiss was full of emotion, slow and sweet. This kiss was him pouring his love into me and I felt drunk.

As if taken over by some unseen deity I felt my arms go around him, winding a hand in his hair, pulling him closer. I felt his tongue brush over mine and I shuddered. His hand was on my chest and I felt as if there was some sort of electricity going from his hand right to my heart. The kiss deepened, quickly becoming fervent and feverish. I pulled him against my body, finally giving in to all those years of yearning from afar. I felt him growl into my mouth and my entire body shuddered with pleasure.

His hand wrapped around the hair in the back of my head as he mashed my face into his. His other hand wrapped around to my back, holding me just as tightly as I held him. I could feel myself hardening, my breath hitching in my chest like hiccups. The kiss deepened further and I was out of breath, feeling as though if I never breathed again that would be just fine. The feel of his tongue on mine was pure heaven, like silk. My hand fluttered down his face, cupping his cheek, running my thumb across it. I felt myself leaning back into the couch, him positioning himself over me, us making out like two teenagers on his parents couch while they slept upstairs unaware of the soon to be X-rated movie about to take place in their basement.

Suddenly immense guilt filled me and I felt the peace that had enveloped me shatter into a million pieces like glass. I pushed against his chest and finally he released my mouth. I wasn´t aware I was sobbing until he reached out and touched my cheek, wiping away the tears and hugging me to him. “Hey,” he whispered. “Hey, it´s alright.”

“No, it´s not alright,” I muttered into his neck, the guilt ripping my heart in two. “I´m not fucking supposed to be doing this. I´m with Hoop now, Holden. I fucking love him.”

He pulled back and looked at me, hurt. “Banky, you kissed back. Don´t say you didn´t want to do it. . . I know you wanted to do it. I would never force myself on you. . . ”

I shook my head, pushing back from him, sighing when he wouldn´t fully let me go. I reached up and wiped at my tears, as angry at myself as I´d ever been. “Fuck, Holden, I´m not saying I didn´t want to do it. That´s what makes it so bad.” I looked at him and shook my head. “Fuck you Holden. Why? Why now? It´s been 2 fucking years!”

“Fuck me?! Fuck you, Banky!” He sat back, finally letting me go. “You kissed back! You kissed back and you deepened it! You fucking wanted to!”

“I know,” I moaned, burying my face in my hands, trying to will myself out of there. Trying to will myself to have been dreaming, cause at least I a dream I couldn´t control what happened. “I know that.”

His voice softened and I felt his hand on my back. “Banky, I´m sorry,” he said. “I. . . the last thing I wanted to do was hurt you.”

“Fuck!” I balled my hands into fists and slammed them into my legs, more angry than I´d ever been in my life. “Fuck,” I repeated, standing up.

“Banky, where are you going?”

I looked at him, all too aware that the tears were once again running down my cheeks. “I love him Holden. I have to go fix what I just did.”

“But. . . ” Holden sat there for a moment, collecting himself. “What about me, Banky? I. . . I just told you I loved you.”

I smiled, reaching out and touching his face affectionately. “I know. And I guess what I just realized is that I´ll always love you. But I can´t be with you, Holden. It´s too late for that. I love Hooper now, Holden. I´ve never been happier than I am when I´m with him.” I took a deep breath. “He loves me, Holden, and it might not be in the same way as you do, but it´s healthy. He accepts me, everything about me.”

“I accept everything about you, Banky!” Holden yelled, standing up. “I always have, for 20 fucking years!”

I swallowed, for all the world wishing I could turn back time and that this had come before we´d spent two years apart. “It´s been too long Holden. I´m happy with him. I can´t throw it all away because you finally had your fucking epiphany,” I said gently, smiling, trying to take the sting out of my words, knowing it wouldn´t.

When he didn´t say anything I turned and started walking towards the door. I made it all the way to the door without looking back. As I opened the door I looked back at him. “Goodbye Holden.”

He stared at me and I wish he wasn´t crying like that. I couldn´t stand to leave him like that. “Did I fuck it up again? Did I ruin us again?”

I shrugged, licking my lips. “I don´t know. I hope not.” I smiled at him, trying to reassure him. “I´ll always love you, know that. I´ll never stop. I´ll never be completely out of your life.”

“Don´t cut me out again, Banky,” he said quietly, looking at me through his salty tears. “Please. I can handle not being with you if you don´t completely cut me off.”

I took a deep breath, closing my eyes. Opening them I looked at him again and tried to smile. “Give me a few days, Holden.”

I started out the door but his voice stopped me again. “Good luck, Banky. I. . . I wish you all the happiness in the world. You deserve it.”

I smiled at him as the tears started again. “Thanks,” I said, turning quickly and bolting down the stairs to my beat up old car.


It was 7:45 by the time I made it back to New York City, and 8 by the time I walked into our apartment. I didn´t even have time to collect my thoughts because the instant I walked in the door I saw him sitting on the couch, eating Count Chockula and watching cartoons. I smiled to myself and walked over to him and kissed him on the forehead, dropping my keys on the table. He looked at me with such trust I felt like I would break right then. Instead I looked away and sat down next to him.

“Is he alright,” he asked me, setting the bowl of cereal down and turning to face me.

I bit my lip, shrugging. “I hope so.”

He frowned. “What do you mean, you hope so? I thought you just drove all the way the fuck down there to see him.”

I nodded, still unable to look at him. “I did. He´s alright.”

He sat looking at me for a few moments and I closed my eyes and leaned my head against the back of the couch. I felt him shift and heard the television click off. “Tell me,” he said simply, and I knew he knew.

I felt a tear work past my closed lids and squeezed them tighter for a moment before opening my eyes and facing him. “He kissed me.” He looked at me for a moment, his face emotionless. Unable to stand it I opened my arms and stared at him. “Please say something.”

He blinked, still looking at me. “Did you kiss him back?”

I sighed heavily, closing my eyes. “Yes,” I said, opening my eyes again, wanting to read his expression.

His face hardened slightly and when I reached my hand out for his he yanked his hand away. “And you wanted to.”

“I got caught up in the moment,” I blurted out. Looking at him I could tell he didn´t buy it and I felt all the weight of the world crash down on me, making my entire body sag. “Yes, I wanted to.”

He pinched his eyebrows together and the look of utter betrayal on his face broke my heart. “How could you, Banky? I gave you a way out a fucking year ago, how could you let me believe you loved me?”

I rolled my eyes back, my world coming apart at the seams and me with no thread to sew it back together. “I do love you, Hoop,” I said quietly, knowing how pathetic and insincere that must have sounded.

He laughed a hollow laugh and shook his head. “So what are you doing here? Shouldn´t the happy couple be celebrating their coming together?”

I shook my head. “Hooper, I love you. . . ”

“But not like you love him,” he said, standing up, taking whatever wind I had left in me with him. I couldn´t breathe, I couldn´t think, I could just watch him looking at me with hurt, anger, and maybe even a little pity. “You never let him go did you? God, I´m such a fucking idiot.”

“No, you´re not,” I said, leaning forward and taking his hand in mine, bringing it up to my cheek. “I did let him go. . . I have let him go. . .”

“You kissed him, Banky!”

“But I came back to you!” I stood, having found some sort of fight within myself. I wasn´t going to let this man walk out of my life, not like this. “I came back to you.”

“How generous of you,” he said coldly, yanking his hand out of my grasp. “To deprive yourself of the love of your life for my sake. Really, it just, it touches me.” He reached out and tapped my cheek, smiling at me bitterly. “Don´t do me any favors, Banky.”

He began to walk away from and in a last ditch effort I fell to my knees, pleading with him. “Hooper, please! I stopped! I stopped cause I love you! I´m happy with you! You´ve made my life worth living again! You saved me! I fucking love you, please don´t shut me out! I´m sorry! I´m so fucking sorry,” I said, cutting myself off with a sob.

I don´t know how long I kneeled there after he continued to our bedroom, assumingly to pack. I got up and walked into the kitchen, my heart in my throat. Holden was wrong, he hadn´t fucked anything up: I had. I´d fucked everything up, from when I left right up until now. Hell, before even that. My whole life maybe. I´d fucked myself 10 ways from Sunday and there wasn´t shit I could do about it.

I grabbed beer out of the fridge and sank into the table. Staring at the beer the label swam before my eyes and I didn´t have the energy to open it. Covering my face with my hands I tried to cry as quietly as I could, but I know they weren´t as quiet as I would have liked them to be. I wished my tears were blood and I could bleed out, just fucking bleed out and die right there. Just die right there at the table with the beer in my hands like the pathetic man I´d become. The pathetic man I´d always been.

I don´t know how long he´d been in the kitchen watching me. I only became aware of him when I heard the chair next to me scrape on the floor and opened my eyes to watch him sit down in front of me. He held out his hand and my hand dropped into his and I don´t know how but it almost made the pain worse. He was sitting there looking at me with his infinite peace and ultimate fucking patience. I didn´t deserve it. I didn´t deserve him.

“How long did it take you to drive there,” he asked softly.

I sniffed, using my free hand to wipe at the tears, not wanting to cry any more in front of him. I had to make it easier on him to leave me. “2 and a half hours.”

He nodded, biting his lip. “And to drive back?”

I scrunched my eyebrows together. Why was he asking this? “A little less. . . I got stuck in the Lincoln tunnel on the way over there. 2 hours and 15 minutes maybe?”

He nodded, and I could see him thinking. “So you were only there for maybe an hour.”

I nodded. “Yeah.”

~What are you doing, Hooper? What are you thinking? Don´t torture yourself like this. Don´t think about it. Just leave. Just leave me. I don´t deserve your understanding.~

He nodded, finally putting whatever was on his mind to rest. He looked at me and I was surprised to see him almost smiling. “It didn´t last very long, did it?”

I frowned, shaking my head. “No. We. . . we talked for awhile. . . before.”

He nodded, fiddling with my hand, playing with it almost. He ran his fingers down my palm, thinking. “He told you he loved you.”

I closed my eyes, shaking my head again for what seemed to be the millionth time that night. “Hooper don´t do this to yourself, just go. . . ”

“Honey, are you kicking me out? Cause I seem to remember paying for half of this bitch. I´m on the lease too, ya know.”

My eyes flicked open, staring at him. Had that been flippancy in his voice? Had that been playfulness? “I just. . . I don´t want you to torture yourself by thinking about. . .”

“Did he kiss you, or did you kiss him?”

I sighed, hanging my head. “I told you, Hoop.”

“Tell me again,” he said calmly.

I looked at him, confused by his calmness. Was this how he dealt with things of this magnitude? What I had done was inexcusable, but here he was, being his infinitely understanding self. “He kissed me. . . but I kissed him back.”

He nodded, and wrapped his hand around mine, smiling. “But you pulled away.”

I nodded, staring at him in bewilderment. He couldn´t possibly be smiling at me. “Y. . . yes, I pulled away.”

“Why? Why did you pull away?”

“Because I love you,” I said, spreading my hands wide. “Because I´m happy with you, because I didn´t want to. . . I didn´t want to lose you.”

“Okay,” he said, nodding and reaching out to wipe away a tear still on my face.

I frowned. “Okay?”

“Okay,” he said again, leaning forward and kissing me softly.

I watched with dazed eyes as he sat back down, smiling at me. “But, I kissed him back Hooper. He kissed me first, but I kissed him back.” I couldn´t understand how he could accept this. “I´m as much to blame for this as him.”

He laughed slightly, nodding. “I´m aware.”

I shook my head. Surely I was loosing my mind. He must have already walked out the door and I was hallucinating this. Maybe my tears were blood and I had bled out and these were my dying dreams. “Hooper. . .”

He rose his eyebrows at me. “Are you telling me you didn´t mean it that you loved me? That you didn´t´ mean it when you said you pulled back cause you loved me? Because you didn´t want to lose me?”

“No, of course I meant it.” I stared at him, still trying to figure out just what the fuck was going on. “But. . . you believe me?”

He laughed then, and this time it was a full on laugh. “Banky, you´re many things, but a liar you´re not.”

I shrugged, smiling slightly. “I just, I know I wouldn´t believe me.”

He nodded, squeezing my hand. “Well, that´s the difference between you and me Banky. You never had enough faith, least of all in yourself.”

I finally allowed myself to believe this was an actuality. It wasn´t as if this wasn´t like Hooper. I´d fucked up before, never with another man, but with my temper of course we´d fought. He´d always understood me though, accepted me faults and all. I just couldn´t comprehend how he could accept something like this. “Hooper, you have to believe me, I´m so sorry.”

“I believe you.”

“I´m sorry,” I said again, squeezing his hand and leaning forward urgently. I had to let him know how sorry I was. “I fucked up, and I´m sorry, and it will never happen again. I love you so much.”

“I know,” he said softly, smiling and running his hand through my hair like he always did when I was upset, ruffling it up a bit. “And you sure as fuck better not, cause your ass is mind, Banky Edwards.”

“In so many ways,” I said playfully, laughing, overjoyed when he laughed as well. “You really understand? You´re really okay with this?”

He shook his head from side to side, looking at me incredulously. “Are you kidding me? Of course I´m not okay with this.” I must have looked frightened cause he smiled softly and cupped my chin, forcing me to look at him. “But I forgive you.”

He leaned forward and I realized something. I was wrong earlier, Holden´s kiss wasn´t the sweetest kiss I´d ever felt in my life. This was. This was the sweetest, most amazing kiss I´d ever had in my life. Cause it came from love. It came from true, mutual, shameless, complete love. After all, *true love cannot be found where it does not truly exist, nor can it be hidden where it truly does.* I read that in a book somewhere, by some author whose name I could never pronounce. Fitting though, isn´t it?

* Quote from un-pronouncable author La Rouchefecou (Or something that´s spelled correctly. What do you want, they said it, not spelled it!). . . stolen quite happily from Jason Lee´s movie Kissing a Fool.

All feedback much appreciated!
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