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02 July 2013 @ 10:45 pm
Fic: One Last Time  
Title: One Last Time
Pairing: Dave Brandstetter/Doug Sawyer
Rating & Word Count NC-17, about 1,700
Disclaimer: These characters belong to the estate of Joseph Hansen.
Notes: Written for smallfandomfest for the prompt “Dave and Doug try one last time to make things work.”



Mist curled around the blue spruce that sheltered the lee side of the cabin and drifted east, obscuring Dave’s view of the pristine lake only a few yards from the porch. A loon’s call echoed across the water. Dave propped his feet on the porch railing and took a deep drag of his cigarette. It seemed a shame to foul the clean dampness of the morning air, but it was an old habit, one he had no intention of correcting. He exhaled, watching as the smoke wafted away to join the mist that wouldn’t lift for another hour or so.

He heard the bed creak as Doug rolled over. He would awaken soon, and he’d be disappointed to find himself alone. Dave had never been able to stay in bed once he was awake, but Doug could linger there, drifting in and out of sleep, for hours. It was a small difference between them, but those small differences were adding up to larger ones, impossible to ignore.

His propensity to throw himself into his work instead of talking was more than a small problem, Dave knew. But so was Doug’s tendency to drift off whenever his ears caught a French accent, a mention of the racing world. They had moved in together, hoping to dispel old, painful memories and perhaps create some new ones, but that hadn’t happened.

They’d arrived at Lake Conley the previous afternoon. Doug called it a weekend getaway, but they both knew what it really was — a last effort to save a relationship that had been on life support for months now. Dave had agreed to the trip, hating the idea, wishing they could simply end the charade. He knew why Doug couldn’t do that, and why he couldn’t do it, either.

It was because of Jean-Paul. And Rod. Two men, dead now for more than a year, had as tight a grip on the living as they had when they walked the earth. Jean-Paul, who had ended his racing career in a literal blaze of glory, and Rod, who had lingered for months, suffering from a cancer that reduced his body to skin and bones, were gone, but they were never far away.

Dave had never met Jean-Paul, of course. He’d died and was buried in France before Doug’s return to California. Doug had never met Rod, and Dave was grateful for that. Doug was like Rod in so many ways, from his olive skin and opague gray eyes to his gift for knowing a rare antique when he saw it. He was different, too, in that he wasn’t effeminate like Rod, didn’t carry on about celebrities and didn’t have crowds of tasteless friends whose shrill laughter and penchant for vicious gossip set Dave’s teeth on edge.

Dave shook his head, wondering for a moment why he and Rod had spent twenty years together, but in the next moment he answered his own question. Rod had understood him in ways no one else had. Rod put up with Dave’s irascible temper, his terrible working hours, and his tendency toward reclusiveness with a sense of humor that could lift Dave’s spirits even on his worst days. Dave had tried to repay Rod in kind, but he’d failed more than he’d succeeded. On his better days Dave could silence his guilty conscience and remember the good times they’d had — and there had been many — but on his worst days the guilt crushed him, and he’d spend hours hoping Rod had forgiven him for not being a better man.

Still, he shouldn’t be thinking of Rod. He should be thinking of Doug, a good, intelligent, caring man who deserved a second chance at life, at love. Doug, with his brilliant smile, his wicked sense of humor, his sensual nature, and his broken, battered heart.

Dave took another drag of his cigarette and thought about the previous evening. He and Doug had cooked a magnificent meal together, grilled salmon with French green beans, new potatoes, served with an expensive bottle of chardonnay. They were surprisingly compatible in the kitchen, never getting in each other’s way or offering unwanted advice. Dave remembered standing beside Doug as he tended the salmon, turning it at just the right moment. He’d put his arm around Doug’s shoulder, felt Doug lean into his embrace, and Dave was sorry it would be one of the last meals they would make together. He’d seen Doug’s chin wobble and had kissed his temple, gently, hoping Doug would not cry.

Because if Doug cried, Dave knew he would, too. He wasn’t an outwardly emotional man, but Rod’s death had left him vulnerable. It would be some time before he could relegate his emotions to the back of his mind, to be examined at some later date when his grief wasn’t so fresh.

The bed creaked again, a different sound this time. Doug was up. They would have the whole day together, the night, too, and tomorrow they would head back to L.A. Together, but apart.

The screen door opened. He felt Doug’s hands on his shoulders.

“Can’t sleep?” Doug kissed the top of Dave’s head. “It’s still early.”

“The loon woke me up.” Dave looked up at Doug. “Didn’t you hear it?”

“No.”

Doug leaned down to kiss Dave’s mouth. He tasted like toothpaste. Dave slid his hand behind Doug’s neck and deepened the kiss. Doug’s reaction was immediate and gratifying, and Dave saw no reason not to make the best of a bad situation. He tossed his cigarette in a coffee can set aside for that purpose and tugged at Doug’s arm.

“Come here.”

Doug smiled as he moved to sit on Dave’s lap. He was naked beneath his bathrobe, his skin warm with sleep. Dave untied his belt and pushed aside his lapels. He threaded his fingers through the silky hair on Doug’s chest, watched his nipples harden in the cool morning air. Doug buried his face in Dave’s neck, shivering as he felt Dave’s hand close around his cock.

Dave shut his eyes, wishing things could be different, wishing he could love Doug, wishing Doug could love him. If nothing else, though, they had this moment, and he refused to waste it on regrets.

“Come back inside,” Doug whispered. “Please.”

“You don’t have to ask,” Dave said, his lips against Doug’s forehead. “You never had to ask.”

*****

After a late breakfast, Doug wanted to walk around the lake. A camp ranger had told him there was trail all the way around it, about four miles in all. Dave agreed, glad for the distraction.

“Let’s have a swim later,” Dave said. “Or, we could take the canoe out.”

“We’ll do both.”

*****

Physical exhaustion had its merits, Dave decided as he undressed for bed. It made him too tired too think. The trail was rougher than they’d expected, and they’d spent hours swimming and canoeing around the lake. They’d talked a little, about Doug’s mother and Dave’s father, their work, what they’d have for dinner. Nothing about Rod, or Jean-Paul, or the direction their lives were taking.

Doug came through the bedroom door, unbuttoning his faded denim shirt, the one that went so well with his gray eyes and silvered hair. Dave watched as he set the shirt aside, then got up naked from the bed.

“Let me.” He kissed Doug’s cheek and the side of his neck, unbuckling his belt at the same time. Doug’s loose-fitting chinos dropped to the floor, the buckle making a dull sound as it hit the rag rug under their feet.

He skimmed off Doug’s boxer shorts, dropping to his knees to slide the material down and off his legs. Desire and regret filled him as he pressed his face against Doug’s hip. He wanted to apologize, the way he hadn’t apologized to Rod, for his shortcomings, his lack of emotion, for a gentleness he’d never given himself a chance to cultivate. He took Doug into his mouth, heard the forgiveness in his sighs and moans, and closed his mind to everything except pleasuring the man who was with him now.

Hours later, with Doug buried inside him, Dave finally understood that one man couldn’t replace another. Each had to create his own place, to stand not alone but beside those who had come before him. Rod would always be there, the first but not the last. In time Doug would come to the same understanding and he would stop trying to replace Jean-Paul.

*****
Dave awakened alone the next morning. He dressed quickly and went looking for Doug, but he wasn’t in the cabin. Dave walked outside and peered through the mist but saw nothing. Not wishing to break the morning stillness by calling out, Dave stepped from the porch and walked toward the lake. The mist cleared for a moment, and Dave saw him, sitting on the damp sand, his head buried in his arms.

Dave took off his jacket and wrapped it around Doug’s shoulders, then sat beside him.

“I’m sorry.” Doug looked at him with wet eyes, his face lined with grief. “I tried, Dave. I really tried.”

“I know. So did I.”

“Did we try hard enough?”

Dave dug his heels in the sand. “I don’t know.”

Doug was quiet for a moment. “I hate him, sometimes. I wish we’d never met.”

Dave nodded. “Me, too.”

“I can’t get past him.” Fresh tears coursed down Doug’s cheeks. “He won’t let me. He’s there, all the time, even when I’m with you.”

Dave pulled Doug into his arms, holding him close. “He’ll leave when you’re ready to let him go.”

“I guess I’m not ready.”

Dave kissed Doug’s hair. “Neither am I.”

The sun rose, the mist cleared, and there was no reason to linger. Dave got to his feet, pulling Doug to his. As he walked back to the cabin with Doug’s hand in his, Dave heard a loon’s lonely call.

*Crossposted from Dreamwidth*
 
 
 
Gaycrow: lady on beachgaycrow on July 3rd, 2013 10:48 am (UTC)
So sad, but inevitable ... such a beautifully written out-take from the series.
storyfanstoryfan on July 13th, 2013 01:31 am (UTC)
Although I love Cecil, I always felt sorry for Doug. I'd like to think he found someone else to share his life.

Thank you for the compliment; it means a great deal to me.
ursula2: Don Tim dancingursula2 on July 4th, 2013 12:46 am (UTC)
I have read all the Dave Brandstetter novels and liked them very much. You have written Dave and Doug very in character. This story is very powerful. Thank you for sharing.
storyfanstoryfan on July 13th, 2013 01:32 am (UTC)
You're so welcome. It was a hard story to write and took a long time because there was no happy ending for Dave and Doug. I prefer happy endings, but their relationship just wasn't mean to be.