Stephen lives in London, is the orphan of parents murdered by terrorists and has a cavity of loneliness growing in his chest.
Dustin has escaped his Southern upbringing but holds dark fears about his sexuality. He has never known a simple kiss or a hug that wasn’t attached to brutality.
Finally finding the love that they have both searched a lifetime for, Dustin has one last request before he returns to his previous existence: Please forget me.
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Listening to Dust – Excerpt
A storm had blown through London that night and driven them back to the flat, sopping with laughter and a wet chill. When Dustin pulled his shirt off suddenly Stephen froze and gaped at him because it was the first time Dustin had ever exposed his torso in the three months they’d been seeing each other.
“What happened there?” Stephen asked. He cringed and squeezed his eyes shut as soon as the words left his mouth; realizing, too late, that Dustin’s scar was the very reason he and Dustin had never shared a shower together; why he’d never been allowed to caress the smoothness of Dustin’s chest; why Dustin had always acted so adamantly withdrawn about his upper body. He turned into the pantry before Dustin could respond and busied himself with a fresh pot of tea; hoping that the casualness of his actions would make his question seem much less intrusive than it sounded.
He looked over his shoulder as he grabbed for the kettle and saw Dustin glance at him before looking down at the scar on his chest. Their short relationship was not an effortless connection for either of them. For Stephen it was a bit of an eggshell walk that left him gyrating between wanting to protect Dustin from his own demons and wishing that Dustin would open the bloody hell up so he could help him instead of watching him suffer.
For Dustin it appeared to be a slow awakening to what potential he had inside, and how much of it he would allow to be shared.
“This is the result of the last conversation I had with my mother,” Dustin finally replied. He turned to the window; his hand automatically coming up to caress the scar.
Stephen let out a silent groan and bumped his forehead against the pantry wall; afraid that, once again, his prying had laid waste to the simple pleasures they had shared during the day.
But, in for a penny, in for a pound; he could either move forward with it or drop it completely and let Dustin wallow. If he did that, it was probable that he wouldn’t see Dustin for a week or more. “Do you… want to talk about it?” he asked gently.
Dustin didn’t answer right away. He stood staring out at the city as the rain stroked the window pane and continued to slowly caress the scar on his chest. Swish, swish, swish. Back and forth. Back and forth. It was almost hypnotic.
“My brother’s funeral,” Dustin answered after a few moments. “Andrew. It happened when we buried Drew.”
He paused and cut his eyes to Stephen again, his sharp glance chipping at Stephen like a challenge. “That’s when we broke,” Dustin continued. “She broke, I broke; we all just goddamn broke. And the wonder boy, Drew, was dead. The ultimate broke.”
Dustin shifted his gaze back to the window, hiding most of what he knew Stephen would see in his eyes. Or maybe he was hiding from what he would see in Stephen’s eyes. Neither of them was sure.
“I did it myself,” Dustin said a few moments later, “…tried to rip my heart out and put it in that bitch’s hand just to hear her tell me once, just once, that she loved me.”
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He was silent for a moment, lost in the memory as Stephen straightened himself off the pantry wall and began a slow move in his direction. He really wanted to rush over and comfort Dustin right at that instant, but he knew that if he intruded any further, as he had done in the past, all Dustin’s old horrors could come back up and be used as a lash to drive him back.
“She looked right through me,” Dustin continued; the window panes in front of him all but humming with suppressed emotion. “Then she got up and walked out while I dug my fist into my chest and screamed at her.”
He shrugged, and sighed deeply, almost as if releasing something within himself. “I couldn’t compete anymore, Stephen. You can’t compete against the dead. Once Drew was gone her only reason to stick around was gone with him, and she left,” he said, shrugging one shoulder.
“I guess I just wanted to know if she ever had any feelings for me.” Dustin added as Stephen came up behind him and reached out to offer some comfort. “Turned out she didn’t. I was just ignorant enough to hope otherwise,” he finished.
He turned and looked at Stephen fully with a face that begged him to stop with the questions. “Can I borrow a shirt?” he asked.
Stephen dropped his arm immediately and backed off. “Of course, let me get a few towels too. We’re still dripping all over the floor.” He forced a smile and went to the cupboard to grab a couple of towels and then pulled an extra shirt from the wardrobe.
He came back and stood holding the shirt and towel out to Dustin. “I’m sorry, Dustin. I didn’t mean to pry. It’s…”
“… habit. Yes, I know,” Dustin finished for him. He grabbed the towel and cupped Stephen’s face with his other hand, brushing against the soft stubble that had risen. There was something in Dustin’s eyes…recognition maybe; a small realization?
“I…” Stephen began.
“Shhh,” Dustin said as he rubbed his thumb across Stephen’s lips. “Don’t say anything, please. Just let it go. Please.”
Stephen sighed, and nodded.
After they had a few subdued drinks Dustin decided to stay the night. When he came into the bedroom he removed the shirt Stephen had given him and stood at the end of the bed, baring his chest and exposing his scar.
He watched Stephen appraise it for a few moments, and then studied Stephen’s eyes as they came back up to his face with a visage that had no pity blossoming behind it. He smiled slightly and crawled in as Stephen beckoned him into the bed.
“Thanks,” he said quietly.
Stephen nodded; knowing that his lack of words would probably do Dustin more good than trying to explain to him that he wasn’t on trial; that Stephen wasn’t trying to show him how to love, only that he was, in fact, loved already. Whether Dustin was willing to accept that was still to be seen.
Stephen didn’t avoid Dustin’s scar when they made love, but he didn’t focus on it either. He moved his hands around the puckered remembrance when he gripped Dustin’s chest and crossed its barrier with his lips a few times, but made nothing of it even though he was fully aware of its presence between them.
Later, when Dustin had fallen asleep, they curled into each other and Stephen looked down on it directly, cautiously sliding his fingertips across its thick crease. For a brief moment he wondered if he would ever find the key that would unlock that passage and fix all that was crooked inside.
But maybe the telling of it was a release in itself; a valve from which Dustin could decant some of the pain he held captive behind that scar; like Stephen had done with his journal after his parents had been murdered. Should he be honored that Dustin had spoken of it at all? He hadn’t blown up in accusation when Stephen questioned him; hadn’t stormed from the house in anger, so maybe they were making some progress in their odd and tenuous relationship after all.
And truth be told, if you could look beyond the cause of its existence, it was kind of sexy in a way. Sort of.