Moving On

by PJ


As Wes fought to wake up, he sighed cuddling his pillow as he remembered that first meeting with the man he'd come to love. He'd left the back door open to his parents' house and a pair of baby raccoons had come inside to explore their new den. Animal control sent Link to trap his visitors. At the wildlife center Wes learned the kits couldn't be relocated and the center already had enough babies. He wasn't happy, although he understood when he found out the kits would be euthanized because raccoons are prime carries of rabies. Then Link had asked Wes to have lunch with him. They talked the afternoon away and lunch turned into dinner. Wes remembered much of the conversation. Link was born and raised here. Like his father, he was a trapper, but Link was more. Link had gone to college and studied wildlife, fish & conservation biology. Instead of moving on after college, he stayed. He loved it here. Wes was beginning to love it too.

They talked about Wes's home town and his work there. After a couple hours of conversation, Link asked why Wes had left to come here to the west coast. Wes decided to take a chance and told him didn't feel like he belonged back there anymore, so had jumped at the chance to come here when his parents needed the help. Then Wes told this man with dark eyes, he was gay. There was no use getting his hopes up if being gay repulsed Link. Wes remembered holding his breath and wringing his hands under the table, not looking at Link. Then Link did something Wes would always remember; Link reach under the table and gently took both of Wes's hands in his own. "I was hoping you might be, Wes." Looking up, Wes saw a twinkle in those dark eyes, and he let the breath out.

Wes rolled over and stretched again, opening his eyes this time. He had a job interview with a local cabinet shop this morning and shouldn't be lying here thinking about his past. There were too many good things developing in his future, most importantly Link. He glanced over at the clock. Shit if he didn't hurry he was going to be late. Heading for the shower at a run, Wes tripped over the pile of clothes he'd left on the floor last night and smacked his left shoulder on the door jamb. "Damn!" he cried out and slid down the wall to the floor. The pain was so intense that Wes was afraid he was going to pass out, but as he gingerly rubbed his shoulder the pain subsided. Getting up he stepped into the shower, hoping the beat of the water would work some of the soreness out. By the time he'd used all the hot water, a bruise was starting to show. Wes finished getting ready then left for the interview. If he hurried, he might just make it there without being late.

*****

"Hey, Link, you ready?" Wes called as he came into the animal holding area later that morning. He paused, smiling when he saw Link bent over the holding cage he was repairing. Taking a quick glance around to make sure they were alone, Wes leaned against the wall and gave a long, low wolf whistle.

Link chuckled, standing up with a grin on his face. "See something you like, kiddo?"

"Yeah, nice um...pockets you got there."

Moving to the door, Link pinned Wes to the wall, leaning in kissing him "I'll show you pockets," Link teased, guiding him out the door. He slipped his hand in Wes's back pocket, squeezing what lay beneath. "Let me wash up then we can get some lunch."

Wes waited by the Jeep. It hardly seemed possible that he had only met Link a few shorts weeks before. It felt like Link had always been there. And to think they owed their first meeting to a pair of ring tailed bandits.

Wes was thinking about that first meeting when Link headed over to his Jeep. He couldn't keep that goofy grin off his face so he wasn't surprised when Link asked "What's going on in that head of yours?" as he open the passenger door. Wes didn't answer, just shrugged and climbed into the Jeep. Leaning in for another kiss, Link continued his inquiry, "Come on, give. What's got you grinning like a Cheshire Cat?"

Wes flushed. "Raccoons."

Link nodded his understanding "Every time I see a raccoon I remember the first time I saw you." Closing Wes's door, Link moved to the drivers' side taking his place behind the wheel. "How was the interview?"

Wes's eyes danced as he turned in his seat to face Link. "It was great. I think he liked me, and I had good references and lots of experience. It's not just a cabinet shop; he does doors and finished carpentry. You know, molding and stuff like that. Ken seems like a great guy. He's got a big installation job going on that's keeping him out of the shop, so he's looking for someone to keep the shop going while he's busy on the site."

"That's a lot of responsibility, babe."

Wes's head snapped up, disappointment dulling his eyes. Before Link could continue he snarled, "What? You don't think I can do it?"

"Stop right now, Wesley." Link demanded in a tone that shocked Wes with its intensity. Wes remembered Phil using that tone the day Rusty and Tim fought, but he had never heard Link use it. Wes could feel the tears that threatened to spill down his flushed cheeks. "Wes, if you would have let me finish, I would have added that you really must have impressed the owner."

A tear did find its way down Wes's cheek . "I'm sorry Link. I guess I'm a little tired. I didn't mean to snap at you."

Link reached up, thumbing the tear away. "Didn't you sleep last night? I remember tucking you in before I left."

"Yeah, I slept for a hour or so, but I kept thinking about the interview."

Link chuckled, shaking his head, "So you got up and played games on the computer, right?"

"Just for a little while," Wes fibbed without looking at Link.

"Wes, look at me." Link waited until Wes was looking at him. "I understand about the games, but lying about the time you spent playing them isn't necessary."

"OK, I guess it was more than a little while," Wes confessed. "I think I finally crawled back into bed around four."

Link laughed then promised, "Next time I'll do a better job of wearing you out before I leave. You know you can call me if you're having trouble sleeping, don't you?"

"I know, but I didn't want to bother you." Seeing Link's eyes narrow a bit, he added, "I mean, just cuz I couldn't sleep, you didn't need me waking you up. You need your sleep too." Then he added not meeting Link's eyes "I don't need a babysitter."

Link didn't say anything for a minute then sighed, "Maybe we better get lunch before you dig yourself in any deeper." When Wes didn't respond, Link started the Jeep but didn't put it into gear. Waiting more than few seconds, Link gently nudged his passenger's knee.

Wes recognized that no nonsense look but demanded anyway, "What?"

Link slightly tilted his head and lowered his eyes. Wes glanced down then quickly secured the seat belt, blushing because he had forgotten to belt up again. One of Link's steadfast rules. Mumbling, "Sorry," he turned to look out the side window.

Link reached out gently squeezing Wes's shoulder. Wes pulled back and gasped. Concerned, Link questioned, "Hey, what's the matter? I didn't squeeze that hard."

"Nothing, it's OK. Can't we just go eat?" Wes practically begged.

Wes watched as Link pulled out his cell phone, hitting speed dial for their favorite pizza joint. After placing the pick-up order, he called Animal Control, telling them something had come up and he was heading home. They could reach him there if needed. Wes knew he was staring wide-eyed at this man in total control of the situation, but he didn't say a word.

Finally Link put the jeep in gear and moved out into traffic. After retrieving the pizza, he pulled up to the drive through at Dairy Queen and picked up a couple of frozen Blizzards.

Wes drifted off to sleep but woke up when the Jeep turned down the long driveway to Link's home. Wes loved where Link lived. Close to town but in the country. His log home was only found after winding a mile from the main road up through the trees and Manzanita. The view from the house was beautiful. At night the lights from the two adjoining towns sparkled below. On a clear day the marsh could be seen with its fingers reaching from the bay in the distance. Wes longed to explore the marsh but Link had already warned him about the dangers of going there alone.

It wasn't a large house, just big enough for Link and maybe one more. Wes wished he could be that person but didn't know how Link felt about sharing. The first floor held the kitchen with eating area, living room, and guest bedroom as well as a full bathroom. A large stone fireplace was centered between the kitchen and living room. The master bedroom and bathroom were upstairs along with Link's office. French doors led to the balcony above the front door. A smaller stone fireplace divided the bedroom from the bathroom, heating both rooms. The covered porch wrapped the whole first floor. Link had converted the barn into his work shop with a critter holding area and garage. The old loft with double doors that had once allowed hay to be stored in the barn, was now used as a storage area. More Manzanita with its striking red branches dotted the area around the barn.

Wes helped bring the food into the kitchen. They had a quiet lunch, talking about the interview. Wes tried not to seem too excited but he couldn't hide his enthusiasm. Working in a cabinet shop wouldn't be as physically demanding as working on a construction site. It would also allow him to hone his finished carpentry skills. After lunch they shared the clean up and moved into the living room.

"OK, Wes, let's see your shoulder." Link's words were stronger than a request, but not quite a demand.

"Link, it's nothing; I just bumped it this morning."

"Now, Wesley!"

Wes removed his t-shirt, knowing he wasn't going to win this round. The bruise was deep purple, about the size of his hand, and it was right over the old scar.

"Ouch, that's gotta hurt. What happened, babe?"

Wes shrugged.

"Wesley, this is more than nothing. I want to know what happened, and I want to know now!" There was a look in Link's eyes that kept Wes from pushing too far. A look he had seen once before only then it wasn't directed towards him.

Wes knew Link wasn't going to let this go so he told Link about his morning "I...I hit it on the bathroom door jamb this morning." Wes lightly rubbed his fingers over the bruise and scar. Link raised an eyebrow waiting for the rest of the story. Wes sighed and continued, "I overslept and when I realized it, I jumped out of bed and ran to the bathroom. I guess I tripped over something and slammed into the jamb."

"And?"

"AND it hurt like hell. AND I thought I was going to pass out, BUT I didn't. AND I stood in the hot shower, letting the water massage it. AND then I had to leave or be late for the interview. AND I grabbed an ice bag. AND took off."

Not commenting on the sarcasm, Link continued sternly "Why didn't you tell me?"

"Because I can take care of myself!"

Wes bolted off the sofa toward the front door. Link had him before he was half way there. "Stop, NOW!" Link growled in to Wes's ear as he held him firmly from behind with Wes's back to him. Link's arm was over Wes's good shoulder and across his chest.

Wes froze; this must be how Rusty felt all those years ago. "L...Let me go. You can't keep me here." Wes tried to keep the tears from leaking out onto his cheeks.

"Wes, I won't force you to stay if you really want to go, but I won't let you leave until you calm down." Link gently kissed Wes's neck.

Wes turned in Link's arms seeking comfort. They stayed that way for a few minutes. Link holding Wes securely with a hand running though the curls above Wes's neck. Wes had his face buried in Link's shoulder. Finally, Wes mumbled, "Sorry, I don't know what's the matter."

Link smiled. "Sweetheart, you're tired and hurt. You're worried about the interview. Maybe I was crowding you a bit. For that, I'm sorry. But I am concerned about your shoulder. And keeping you safe and well is important to me."

"I'm OK, Link, really I am. It doesn't hurt so much now. Well, except when someone squeezes it." Wes giggled though a yawn "But I guess I am tired."

"OK, lay down on the sofa and let's get some more ice on it." Link went into the kitchen, returning with an ice bag, a glass of water and a couple ibuprofen. Handing the tablets and water to Wes, Link instructed him to take them.

Wes slept and after about 20 minutes, Link took the ice bag back to the kitchen. When he returned he held two paper cups. "OK how 'bout a Blizzard?" Link said, holding out a cup to Wes. "Then I'll drive you home so you can get a good night's sleep? I'll come get you in the morning so you can pick up your truck," Link offered.

"Or maybe I could stay here tonight?" Wes smiled a wide goofy grin that he knew Link liked.

"I'd love for you to stay here, babe." And then Link added, "For as long as you want."

"I'd like that too, Link."

TBC

~ PJ

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