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Changes of the Heart

by Rolf and Gayspankee

Copyright on this story text belongs at all times to the original authors only, whether stated explicitly in the text or not. The original date of posting to the MMSA was: 22 Mar 2001


It was early Friday morning, the sun just barely peering over the horizon. Matthew was jolted from his peaceful slumber by a gentle tapping on his back. As he rolled over, he began coughing profusely.

"Let me get you some water," Rolf said, peeling the sheets off of himself.

Matthew grabbed his wrist, shook his head 'no' and stumbled out of bed. He walked briskly to the kitchen. He knew Rolf would bring him water and wanted something with flavor to remove his morning breath taste. He poured himself a glass of kool aid, a product masked as Juicey Juice in the refrigerator. Matthew drank slowly, removing the annoying tickle that woke up the house. When he was finished he tossed the glass in the sink and stepped into the living room. Standing by the window, he looked out to make sure the neighborhood was still standing. The sun had risen a bit higher, a few stray beams illuminating the room. Matthew looked at the clock and saw he had a couple more hours to sleep. He walked past the door on his way back to bed and did a double take as he saw an envelope on the floor, directly beneath the mail slot. His heart began to race.

"What the hell is that?" he thought to himself. "It isn't mail. We checked it yesterday and they certainly don't deliver this early."

Matthew crept over to it, as if it would bite. He slowly bent down and picked it up. Written on the front was 'To Fruitcake and Rolf'. Matthew breathed a sigh of relief when he realized it was from Marc, but as he began to open it, his heart picked up speed again.

"Why is there a letter from Marc here?" he said quietly.

"Are you coming back to bed?" Rolf asked, standing behind him.

Matthew jumped, dropping the envelope.

"Jeez, you scared the sh-crap out of me."

"Sorry. What's that?" Rolf asked, inquiring about the dropped envelope.

"It's from Marc," Matthew said, bending down to pick it up. "I just found it on the floor, in front of the mail slot."

"Hmm. That's odd. It wasn't there last night, was it?"

"No."

"Open it up."

Matthew opened the envelope and sat in front of the window to read it by the sunlight. He sat, staring at it, as a couple of tears rolled down his cheek.

"Well, what does it say?" Rolf asked quietly.

"Dear Fruitcake and Rolf," Matthew began reading, a bit choked up. "Just wanted to let you know that I had to get away for a couple of days. The events of the past two weeks have just taken their toll. I don't know where I am going, but I will be fine. I will be back on Monday, Tuesday at the latest. Don't worry about me. All my love, Marc."

Matthew just stared at the note as tears streamed down his face. Rolf sat next to Matthew to reread the note, just to be sure nothing was missed. Rolf wrapped his arms around Matthew, allowing Matthew to cry gently on his shoulder.

"Shhh. It's alright sweetheart. He just needed time to get away. Apparently he wasn't ready to let Luke go."

"That is why this huuuurrts so much!" Matthew said, crying. "Marc was hurting and couldn't open up to me. He didn't have to run away, at least not alone."

"He felt he did. He just needed some time to grieve."

Rolf held Matthew for a few more minutes.

"Come on, we can still get a good two hours of sleep in," Rolf said, bringing Matthew to his feet.

"I'm not tired," Matthew mumbled.

"Humor me and lay down next to me then."

Matthew followed Rolf into the bedroom. The tears had stopped, the pain had not. Rolf positioned Matthew on his stomach and rubbed his back as he laid next to him. Within five minutes, Matthew had fallen asleep. Rolf smiled as he heard the soft snore. He rolled onto his back and stared at the ceiling. He too felt horrible, as though he had let Marc down. He felt he should have seen the discontent and sadness in his face, heard the loneliness in his voice. He prayed for Marc's safety and was glad that Marc had the intuition to leave a note, even if it was vague. His mind swirled for an hour before finally falling back to sleep.

All too soon the alarm went off. Matthew sprang to consciousness, certain that he just had a horrifying nightmare. As his eyes scanned the room, he saw the proof that his nightmare was a reality. He reached for the letter and reread it. As he read it, he sensed Rolf was watching him.

"Why, Rolf? Why did he run? Why didn't I see the void this ordeal left him with? And why did this guy mean so much to Marc?"

"I don't know. I asked myself those very questions. Marc is a big boy, he will be alright," Rolf said, trying to convince himself of that fact. He leaned over and kissed Matthew on the cheek. "Go clean up, I will make breakfast."

Matthew knew nothing could be done just by staring at the note, so he did as Rolf requested. He climbed out of bed and made his way into the bathroom, taking his shower and brushing his teeth.

Several miles away, on the sandy, sunny coast, Marc was sitting quietly on a bench overlooking the ocean. He watched the waves crash down and listened to the seagulls' call. His stomach was in knots and he felt such a void in his heart. He hated lying to Matthew and Rolf, but with everything that had happened, he didn't think they would understand. While he said he would be fine, he was far from it.

Luke was the first man Marc had connected with in some time, and his death took it's toll on Marc regardless of what was said. Marc's breaking point was Thursday morning, the day of the funeral. He wanted to stay away, he even pretended to be unaware of it when Rolf mentioned it, but he went anyway. And that closure was even worse than the hateful words spewed at him and his closest friends. Marc went home after the funeral and packed a small bag. He wrote a note letting Rolf and Matthew know he would be gone the weekend, just to save his ass from any grief. He took care of a few odds and ends, and that evening parked outside their house and waited for them to retire to bed. Once the house was dark, Marc walked up to the mail slot and dropped it in. He got into his car and drove for the coast, making it there just before sunrise, taking up camp where he presently was. Marc didn't have a plan, or even know why he was there. Perhaps to get in touch with his soul. Perhaps to get in touch with someone else's soul.

After the sun had risen nicely, Marc realized he was tired from driving all night. He spotted a hotel across the street, and was fortunate enough to find a vacancy for the weekend. Marc entered his darkened, cheap, room and placed his suitcase on the dresser. He turned the television on and stripped to his underwear before walking over to the window and peering out.

Matthew stood by the window in his office, staring out blankly. It was already noon and he had completed nothing. He was a million miles away, his mind focused on Marc, not work. He was so deep in thought and distress, he hadn't heard his secretary enter.

"Mr. Mocoso," The meek secretary whispered. "Uh, Mr. Mocoso?" Finally she realized she needed to speak up. "Matthew?"

Matthew spun around, crashing back to the here and now.

"Mr. Cox would like to see you in his office. Now."

"Ugh, okay. Thank you."

The meek young lady exited the room. Matthew took one last look out the window and steeled his nerves. He had no clue as to what Mr. Cox could want. Matthew exited his office and walked down the hallway, the area seemingly even longer and narrower than it was yesterday. He took a deep breath as he knocked on the door.

Marc sat up disoriented, awoken by a knock on the door. He looked around the room lost, taking a couple seconds to realize where he was. It was three in the afternoon. A knock resounded through the room again.

"Room service!" A voice on the other side of the door yelled.

Marc stumbled out of bed, still clad in only his briefs. He had forgotten that he requested a meal at three, for this very reason, to wake him up! He opened the door and found a gorgeous young male standing there with his dinner bag. Marc motioned for the young man to enter. He walked over to his jeans which he left on the floor in a pile with his other clothes and pulled out his wallet. He searched for a ten dollar bill. The young man had watched him intently the entire time, staring at Marc's firm glutes. Marc returned to the young man, and handed him the money.

"Thanks a lot. I appreciate it." Marc said.

The young man handed back the cash. "This one is on the house."

Marc looked into his sparkling blue eyes and smiled. "Do you have plans for tonight?" Marc asked.

The young man smiled, and shook his head no.

"I am looking for someone to show me the nightlife around here. Would you be interested...um...didn't catch your name."

"Ted. And yes! Pick you up at 6?"

"What sort of nightlife starts at 6?"

"The kind that begins with dinner."

Marc smiled. "You know where to find me."

"I certainly do, sweetcheeks," Ted replied and left.

Marc smiled, and blushed as he realized he held that entire conversation in his underwear. He closed the door and sat on the bed digging into his fast food meal.

Matthew sat at his desk practically bouncing out of the seat. He couldn't believe what had just happened and couldn't wait until quitting time to share the news. He picked up the phone and dialed Rolf's cell phone.

"Hello?" Rolf answered.

"Hey sexy guy, how are you?" Matthew replied.

"I am fine." Rolf said as he looked at his watch. "How are you? Everything alright? Aren't you supposed to be in class?"

"Oh shi--shoot! I totally forgot about it!"

"You forgot?!? Didn't we just have a discussion on forgetting class?"

"Calm down, it wasn't my fault. I just got out of a meeting with Mr. Cox!"

"What was so urgent that he had to speak to you immediately?"

"Well . . . nothing really."

"Nothing?" Rolf asked, getting very suspicious.

"Not unless you consider the spacious corner office and some fancy title NOTHING!"

"You got the promotion?" Rolf said with cautioned enthusiasm.

"Who's the man?"

"You are baby! Congratulations! Tonight we celebrate. I expect you home no later than 5. Do you hear?"

"Yes sir, I'll be there."

"Anything else?"

"Isn't that enough?"

"Absolutely! Thanks for sharing. See you soon."

"You're welcome. Love you."

"Love you back."

Matthew hung up the phone with a smile. He was too busy gloating now to work, so he decided to double check his class syllabus, make sure nothing was missed in class. The download time seemed to take forever, but that was just because he was on his high! Finally the page loaded, and his heart sank to his feet.

"NOOO! That can't be right!" Matthew said, staring at the screen. "That is due NEXT WEEK!"

He pulled up the assignment in question. A ten page research project, worth 10% of his final grade. Due on this very date, no exceptions! The color drained from his face. All of his high flying energy bounced out the window. He sat back, staring at the screen, frozen. What was he going to do? Rolf would kill him if he knew Matthew was that careless to forget something so important. He needed advice, he needed guidance. He needed help from the only person that could save his tail. He picked up the phone and dialed and as the answering machine clicked, reality set in. He hung up the phone listlessly.

"Marc, I need you. Why aren't you here for me?" Matthew said quietly.

"Punctual. I like that in a man." Marc said, answering the door.

"That's me. I come right on time."

Marc smiled, getting Ted's lewd joke.

"Might I say, you look just as cute fully clothed as you do in them tighty whities!"

"Bet you say that to all the boys."

Ted shrugged. That made Marc nervous. He was still confused and unsure about what he was hoping to gain from this trip. Marc was never the type to be satisfied by a one night stand, but perhaps that is what he needed to rid himself of the void inside. If ever Marc wanted a one night stand, Ted was the man. Gorgeous from head to toe. Trim and tanned, piercing blue eyes, cropped dark hair. Marc made small talk with him on the way to the restaurant, only half listening to him. hec looked up at the slowly setting sun, and then looked over at Ted and for a brief second he could have sworn he saw Luke. He shook his head and tried to snap back into the here and now.

"So where are we going anyway?" Marc asked.

"The Pink Ball."

"WHAT?" Marc asked, eyes widened.

"The Mink Hall. It's a restaurant just up on the boardwalk. We can go somewhere else if you wish."

"No, no that's fine." Marc replied, heart rate returning to normal.

"Good. They have the BEST french onion soup. And the swordfish steaks are to die for."

Marc stopped dead in his tracks.

"You all right?" Ted asked, stopping as well.

"What were you just saying?"

"Are your ears clogged tonight? I said they have the BEST french fries and the porterhouse steaks are to die for."

"I am sorry..." Marc's head was spinning. "I...this isn't...I have...it's not you...I have to go. Th...thanks. Um...sorry. I will be fine, I just have to go." Marc stammered as he ran off back towards the motel.

"What a freak." Ted said quietly, watching Marc, before turning around and contining towards the restaurant.

Marc couldn't run any more. His legs were weak and his head was spinning. He slid down a small embankment onto the beach, sitting down on the warm sand. He pulled his knees up to his chest, wrapping his arms around them as tears began rolling down his cheeks. Soon his tears turned into sobs. Marc was oblivious to his surroundings, consumed by grief. After several minutes of sobbing, Marc felt a hand on his shoulder.

"Hey fella, are you alright?"

Matthew sat at the table, stabbing his salad with his fork. His mind was no longer on celebrating.

"Matthew, don't play with your food."

Matthew glanced up briefly before eating a forkful. Rolf could see the distance in his eyes, and assumed it was due to Marc's absence.

"Do you want to talk about it?" Rolf asked.

Matthew tensed up. "What? I am fine!"

"You obivously are not. I know you wish Marc was here to celebrate your promotion. He'll be back!"

"I know." Matthew said quietly.

Rolf could see that this was not the topic of conversation. They continued to eat their salads in silence.

"Did you check to see if you missed anything in class?" Rolf ventured a few minutes later.

Matthew stared at his almost empty salad plate and shifted uncomfortably in his seat. He remained silent.

"Matthew, answer me," Rolf said sternly.

Just as Matthew was ready to mouth off, his guardian angel swept in. Well, the waitress anyway. She cleared away the salad plates and brought on the main course. Matthew dove in, thanking his lucky stars for her arrival. Things were bad enough, he didn't need his smart talk getting him in deeper. Rolf decided this was not the place to finish that line of questioning, but was far from down with it. The remainder of the meal was eaten in silence.

Marc sat silently, slowly controlling his sobs. A stunning young man sat down next to him on the continually cooling sand. The young man placed his hand on Marc's back, and gently rubbed his back and shoulders.

"My name is Jasper. My friends call me Jasper the friendly bloke." The young man spoke in soothing a voice.

"You don't sound English," Marc said quietly.

"Ah, he speaks! My name is English, my accent is not."

"A lovely name it is."

"Well thank you. I am fond of it. And what do we call you? Besides heartbroken."

"That obvious?"

"Afraid so. Men only cry for two reasons. Either their favorite sport team just lost the championship, or their heart is breaking."

"I don't care much for sports."

"Me either. That's why I went for the latter."

"I am Marc."

"Pleasure, Marc. Would you like to tell Jasper all about it? I am a superb listener."

Marc looked at Jasper for the first time. His heart skipped a beat. Jasper was everything Marc ever envisioned in his dream man. And he had a personality to boot. Around his neck he wore a rope with seashell in the shape of a heart. The seashell had a small crack running down the center.

"How long you got?" Marc asked, after taking in Jasper from the light of the setting sun.

Jasper kicked off his sneakers and peeled off his socks, sticking them inside his sneakers. Then he readjusted his position. "I have all night."

Rolf pulled the car into the driveway and parked. Matthew snapped back to reality and looked around at his surroundings.

"I thought we were going to the movies," he said, sounding cross.

"Well, I intended to, but you haven't said boo to me in forty-five minutes. I would prefer my silence in bed."

"Well isn't that a fine how do you do? So glad I worked my ass of for that damn promotion!"

"Hey, watch the language!"

"fuck off!" Matthew replied, climbing out of the truck and slamming the door behind him. He stormed up the walkway and into the house, stomping up the stairs to his room and slamming the door behind himself. He collapsed on the bed in tears. Tears of anger for his night being ruined. Tears of sadness for missing Marc. Tears of regret and fear, as he couldn't believe what he just said to Rolf.

Rolf stalked into the house and up the stairs. He walked slow and steady, like Jason Vorhees going to claim his victim. When he reached the bedroom he slowly opened the door. He found Matthew sobbing on the bed. These were different sobs, not the usual "take pity on me" kind He sat on the bed and scooped Matthew up.

"You have to talk to me! What just happened?" Rolf said, calmly.

"I just lost it. And that is when you arrived," Marc said.

"So why all this for Luke? Why the running away?" Jasper asked.

"Why? Because he was a great guy. He was charming and cute and sweet. And everywhere I looked at home, I could still see him."

"But he told you that you were nothing more than a great lay!"

"He was frustrated and not thinking. Haven't you ever been aggitated and said stuff you didn't mean?"

"We all have. But have you ever said anything that vindictive? That hurtful?"

"No," Marc said, quietly.

"You said he gave a little speech, or a rant as you called it. He knew what he was saying. That doesn't just come out. 'What's up with your breath,' that just comes out. But to tell you that aren't worth anything, that is just cruel. You are....that is just cruel."

"What? What were you gonna say?"

"You are someone special, and you need someone who will treat you the way you deserve to be treated."

"You don't even know me!"

"Sometimes you have to rely on the words of others," Jasper said, putting his hand on Marc's leg. "You have friends back home. Friends who care very deeply for you. You're giving Luke more of your heart than you should be. You have said alot about Luke tonight, but how much did you know about Luke? I mean what was there below the exterior?"

"I...I guess I don't know. I never got the chance."

"Had he lived, do you think you would have found out?"

"But he didn't live!"

"And that is what this is all about. Because, you DID love him, but Marc he didn't love you back. And you deserve someone who can love you with all his heart, body and soul. Luke was not the one. Living or deceased."

"That's what Matthew said to me just before I left. I couldn't hear it from him though. He couldn't see the situation objectively."

"As I have?"

"Yes, as you have."

"You have to...I don't know! You need to rid yourself of Luke. Because if you don't, you won't ever be able to let anyone else in. That empty hole in your heart can consume you, if you let it."

"How do you know so much about that?"

"I have been burned before."

"Who in their right mind would do that to you?"

"That's funny," Jasper said with a smile. "I was thinking the same thing about you."

Marc blushed at Jasper's comment.

"Boyfriends may come and go, but true friends will stay forever. Matthew and Rolf are true friends. Sometimes it takes a stranger to point out the obvious."

"Or a new friend."

Matthew sat on the edge of the bed, head hung. Rolf was pacing back and forth in front of him, in mid lecture.

"I still don't understand how you forget something that big! Then you don't even bother to tell me about it."

"I told you I was trying to." Matthew said, quietly.

"If you tried to, you would have succeeded."

"Marc offered to help me with the research. Then all of that stuff had happened with Luke, and...and I forgot," Matthew finished miserably.

"Why did you wait until the last minute?"

"I work better under pressure."

"And I HATE when you do that! Trying to cram in a huge assignment in one or two nights. Staying up until all hours of the night, and needing dynamite to get you out of bed the next morning."

"I'm not THAT bad," Matthew replied, hotly.

"Yes, you are! Anyway, that is not the point of this discussion. I am goning to overlook the CRUDE language, but so help me, if you ever tell me to do that again it will be the entire bar of Ivory. I am also going to overlook the fact that you were trying to hide this from me. I know that if Marc was here, he would have steered you right. You have to rely a little less on others, more on yourself. Marc will always be your best friend, but he does have his own life and matters to deal with."

"I know, it's just that . . . I care so much about him. He has helped me out of a lot of tight spots. He was my practice run 'you' in college. It just hurts that he wasn't able to tell me everything, and that he had to run away."

"I know it does, it hurts me too. And when he returns, we can all sit down and have a good talk. We ALL need it. Now back to you. I can not let the fact that you sat on this assignment for too long, and missed ten percent of your grade, slide. Go downstairs and get me the paddle."

"Rolf! Please not the paddle. PLEASE!"

"Matthew, get the paddle, NOW."

Matthew sat on the bed, frozen. How he hated that blasted paddle.

"One."

Matthew winced.

"Two."

Matthew managed to get to his feet. He exited the bedroom and made his way down stairs. When he returned to the bedroom, Rolf was seated on the bed. He meekly put the paddle into Rolf's outstretched hand.

Rolf placed the paddle next to him on the bed, snagged Matthew's wrist and pulled him closer. He unbuttoned Matthew's pants and pulled them down to the floor, motioning for Matthew to step out of them. Rolf did the same thing with Matthew's black boxer briefs. He then guided Matthew over his knee, holding him in place with his left hand and grabbed the paddle with the right. He landed six hard smacks in rapid succession.

Matthew was left short of breath, tears threatening to fall.

"That was for not getting the paddle when asked the first time."

Rolf put the paddle back down on the bed. He began to slowly spank Matthew by hand, covering every milky white inch.

Marc and Jasper sat quietly on the beach watching the calming waves of the ocean and how they sparkled in the bright moonlight. Marc laid back on the cool sand, staring blankly at the zillions of stars out. His eyes grew too heavy and he closed them for only a moment. He felt a gentle touch on his arm and he felt finally at peace. His heart no longer ached and for the first time in a week, he was able to think clearly. He opened his eyes and turned to Jasper, wanting to thank him. He was gone! Marc sat up quickly and looked around. He saw a trail of footprints in the sand that faded into the ocean. He watched as the footprints were slowly erased by the waves upon the soft sand, unsure as to what had happened that evening. Did he cry himself asleep on the sand? Was it all a dream? Was there a Jasper? He contemplated the possibilities for a while. Finally he found the energy needed to stand up, but when he went to brace himself to do so, his hand hit something. Marc shifted his position and straddled the object, scooping it out of the sand. It was the seashell necklace that Jasper had been wearing . . . only, the seashell was not cracked. Marc's pulse quickened and he smiled, sliding the necklace over his head. A calming warmth engulfed him as he stood up. He knew it was time to return home, and he was ready.

It was Saturday morning and much like the previous morning, the dawn's early rays were creeping through the blinds. Matthew rolled over onto his back and was jolted from dream land. Like many he had experienced, last night was a restless night. His bottom was still very tender, thanks to that blasted paddle. The air was dry, and so was Matthew's mouth. He quietly slid out of bed and walked downstairs to the kitchen. As he poured himself a glass of water, he glanced at the microwave clock. 7:01am. Matthew slowly sipped his water and walked into the living room, again peering out the window to survey the neighborhood. He did a double take as he was certain the car across the street was Marc's, standing empty. There would be no resting until he checked it out for himself. He opened the front door and jumped back into the house before his foot met the landing.

"WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE?" Matthew screeched.

Marc was sitting on the front stoop. He was lost in his thoughts about what he was gonoing to say, and didn't hear the door open. He jumped nearly a mile when Matthew screeched. He turned quickly, sizing Matthew up and down as if he was meeting Matthew for the first time. Marc stretched out his arms, and spoke softly. "I'm back."

Matthew sprung into Marc's arms, glad to see his friend alive and well. Then he slugged Marc a couple times in the arms, semi-playfully.

"Don't you ever leave like that again!"

"I don't plan to!"

By this time, Rolf had noticed that Matthew wasn't in bed and heard him screech as well. He came stumbling downstairs and saw the front door open, Marc and Matthew embracing.

"Well, look who the cows drug home," Rolf said, smiling.

Marc cracked a smile and walked up to Rolf with Matthew in tow. Rolf gave Marc a hug, and a swat to his bottom.

"You had us worried," Rolf said.

"I'm sorry. I just had to get away."

"Well, come on inside and tell us about it."

The three made there way into the kitchen. Rolf put on a pot of coffee as Marc and Matthew took a seat at the table.

"So where did you go?" Matthew asked.

"The beach."

"Without ME?" Matthew asked, indignantly.

Marc caught Matthew's eye. "Sorry, it wasn't pleasure. And I didn't really know where I was going when I left," Marc stated. "First, I must apologize to you both."

"What for?" Matthew asked.

"I lied to you both. I wasn't fine. I haven't been fine in a week. Luke dying was a HUGE loss to me. And after everything that had happened, I couldn't talk to you about that. Either of you," he finished quietly.

"You could have," Matthew replied.

"I know that now. But I didn't feel I could then. I attended the funeral on Thursday. That just knocked me through a loop. I went home and couldn't think of anything but Luke. Everything was a reminder of him, in one strange way or another. Next thing I knew, my suitcase was packed and loaded in my car. I was thinking clear enough to write you that note. I don't even know what I wrote. I waited until you went to bed, and dropped it in your slot. Then I just drove. Ended up at the beach. Didn't know what I was going to find there, but knew I would find what I was looking for. I just had no idea it would come like it did."

Matthew looked at Rolf, a bit concerned about the way Marc was speaking.

"What happened?" Matthew asked, cautiously.

Marc's eyes sparkled. "Something magical. I spoke to my angel! He was beautiful. Anyone who has ever seen an angel always comments on their eyes. It's true. Their eyes are enchanting and captivating," he finished breathlessly.

"You're kidding, right? You mean you spoke to someone who was LIKE an angel," Matthew responded.

"NO. He WAS an angel," Marc replied.

Rolf and Matthew were concerned that Marc was disillusioned by his trip. They sat quietly and listened to the whole story, from start to finish.

"Then when I went to get up, I found this buried in the sand," Marc finished, pointing at his necklace.

Both Rolf and Matthew were certain that Marc must have fallen asleep at some point while speaking to the kind stranger, and he must have gotten up and left. But neither one wanted to speak their mind. They wanted Marc to remain as happy as he was now.

"I am so happy that you were able to work through your issues, even though I wish you could have done it with one of us," Rolf said.

"I know, but sometimes it takes a stranger to be objective."

"Yes, I guess it does. I am going to go shower for my bike ride. Glad you are home safe and sound," Rolf said as he stood and kissed Marc on the head.

Matthew sat quietly as Rolf left the kitchen.

"You have been awful quiet," Marc said.

"Just thinking."

"About what?"

"How horrible it was to need you and you weren't there for me."

"What are you talking about?" Marc asked with concern.

"I got that promotion at work. You know the great office and everything," Matthew said, without much enthusiasm.

"Well, that is wonderful! But why would you need me for that? I mean aside from sharing the news?"

"I missed class because I was speaking to my boss. And when I finished bouncing around, I checked to see what I missed. That project was due, Marc. You remember? The one we were gonna work on together. The one you offered me help on," Matthew replied, trying not to let Marc see how hurt he was.

"Oh my. I am so sorry. I did forget all about it, with everything going on and all. I am so sorry," Marc replied, meaning it.

"It's alright. That wasn't the worse part though." Matthew took a deep breath. "The worse part was I didn't know how to tell Rolf I messed up. So I tried to keep it quiet."

"You didn't!?!"

"I did. And ended up telling him to F off."

"Ouch. That couldn't have gone over well."

"It didn't, but luckily he took sympathy on me. Marc, I was confused and didn't know what to do, and you weren't there for me." Matthew finished, near tears.

"Matthew, I was going through the same thing," Marc replied, softly.

"I . . . I guess you were. I'm sorry that I didn't see that everything wasn't fine."

"And I'm sorry I forgot about your assignment."

"Don't you ever feel like you can't open up to me. No matter what the situation is. I will listen."

Marc responded with a hug. "Thank you."

The two young men continued talking for a few minutes.

"I have to get home. I drove all night and I am ready to crash," Marc said.

"You shouldn't drive home. Let me take you."

"No, you will just have to walk back. I can walk, and you can bring my car by later. The morning air will do me good."

"You sure?"

"Positive. Besides, this way you can be sure I won't run away again," Marc said, laughing.

Marc and Matthew embraced again, both feeling in better spirits. Matthew watched as Marc made his way down the walk and around the corner, before shutting the door and heading back upstairs.

Marc continued walking, inhaling deeply the fresh morning air. The songs of the birds sounded more melodious, the flowers sweeter than he remembered. The morning sun seemed warmer and brighter than ever before. As Marc continued on his way home, he replayed the events of the previous night, slowly stroking the necklace around his neck. It. had been a magnificent turn of events. And no matter how it sounded, Marc knew he had been touched by an angel.

Marc finally made it home. He walked up to his front door, ready to enter for a nice slumber and realized he had left his key with Matthew. He shook his head, not believing what he had done. He sank slowly down on the porch steps, his back resting against the railing. He looked up at the large oak tree and watched a leaf fall, following the slow and easy turns as it gently settled onto the ground. As it hit the ground, he saw a pair of shoes stop at the leaf. He followed the shoes up the legs of a young man. Eventually, his eyes made contact with the young man's.

"Looks like it may be an early fall," the young man said.

"Oh, I hope not. Kind of enjoying this weather."

"Me too. You live here?" The young man said, gesturing behind Marc.

"Yes I do. Why?"

The young man walked up to Marc. "I am Devin, just moved in next door. Or should I say, moving in, if the movers ever arrive."

"I am Marc, welcome to the neighborhood."

"Thanks. Is everyone this good looking here?" Devin paused with embarassment. "I mean friendly," he finished quickly.

Marc smiled warmly. "Don't worry, I think you will fit in just fine."

"Perhaps you would be interested in having dinner, once I am settled in?"

"I would like that. Hey, you know where to find me," Marc said with a smile.

"Cool. And yes I do. I probably should head back, they should be here soon."

"Alright, I will see you later."

"I look forward to it."

Marc stayed against the railing for a few more minutes, then jumped to his feet. Just as he hit the ground, the movers arrived. Marc read the side of the truck and smiled widely. He took hold of his necklace and held it tightly.

"Jasper's Moving Inc." Marc read aloud.

Marc continued beaming as he started the walk back to Matthew and Rolf's. As he neared the corner of his own street, he reached into his pocket. He felt something moving about and finally grabbed it. He pulled out the object and discovered it was his house key. He just stared at the key for a moment.

"Thanks, Jasper. Friendly bloke indeed," Marc said, smiling up at the sky. He turned around and returned to his home, crashing into bed. He slept soundly, the first time in well over a week. All was right in the world again.


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