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Title: Long Journey Home
Author: Mice
E-mail: just_us_mice@yahoo.com
Category: LGM, Byers/Jimmy, Byers angst; post-ep: Maximum Byers
Rating: R for adult language, violent themes
Summary: Sequel to "Texas Death House Blues" -- Morning thoughts and late night driving. This story picks up the morning after the last scene in TDHB.
Archive: DITB, Lone Slasher, all others ask
Disclaimer: If you think they're mine, you're delusional. I recommend a psychiatric exam.


SAM HOUSTON MOTOR LODGE
HOUSTON, TX
EARLY MORNING

The slow, delicious feeling of waking in the dawn light was shattered in a frantic moment when Byers realized that he wasn't alone in bed. His body stiffened in panic but he suppressed the urge to struggle and strike out with the swift realization that the body next to him was Jimmy, and that he'd asked for the company. Taking a deep, quiet breath, he relaxed again.

The grey light touched the two mugs on the window sill in front of him. Last night they'd held hot cocoa, a gesture of comfort on Jimmy's part. The mugs seemed natural there, one beside the other, a dry smear of chocolate down the side of the one Jimmy had used. They reminded him of a still life painting; the perfection of muted light in the drizzling rain reflected his own mood with immaculate clarity.

Frohike snored softly across the room.

John sighed quietly and lifted his head to look around. One of Mel's feet stuck out from under the covers that had been thrown over his head during the night. His face was obscured by sheets, pillow, and one hairy arm. Langly lay on another bed, face down on top of the covers, still dressed. For a moment, John worried what his friends might think. They'd come in after he had fallen asleep, and he knew they must have seen him in bed with Jimmy. Even with their knowledge of his feelings for Susanne, would they believe that something was happening here beyond his simple need for creature comfort?

Jimmy stirred behind him, arm tightening around his waist, under the loose shirt of his pajamas. Byers was warm and comfortable, and didn't really want to move yet, so he lay there listening to Frohike's snoring and the quiet sounds of Jimmy's breathing and the drizzle against the window.

After a while, Jimmy's fingers curled softly and gently along John's abdomen. The hand trailed up his chest, drawing him closer, ending its trip at his shoulder. John looked over at his companion.

"Morning," Jimmy said, his voice still a little muzzy from sleep.

"Morning, Jimmy," Byers whispered, not wanting to disturb their roommates. "How long have you been awake?"

Jimmy yawned and stretched, then pressed John close to him. "Not too long. How are you feeling?"

"Better," Byers said. "I really appreciate your being here for me. I needed that last night." He paused, forehead creasing.

Jimmy ran his fingers across the lines in John's face, brushing the dark, errant bangs out of his friend's eyes. "Is something wrong?"

Byers looked out the window, away from Jimmy. "I..." He took a deep breath, then started again. "I guess I'm just worried about what the guys are going to think. I mean, they saw us here. What if they think that you and I, that we're..."

Jimmy chuckled. "I woke up when they came in last night. Langly made some crack about it, but I told him what was going on, and I think he understood that it wasn't about sex or anything. Anyway, Frohike smacked him about it." His arm moved back to Byers' waist, hand resting on John's hip.

"Thanks, Jimmy. I'm glad it wasn't misunderstood."

"Oh, no way. The guys, they know you're not like that. I mean, about Dr. Modeski and all. And I would never do anything like that unless it was what you really wanted anyway."

Byers turned and looked at Jimmy. "What do you mean by that?"

Jimmy's smile faded, his face serious. "I meant what I said last night, John. I'd do anything for you. Like, even if it was about sex. But only if that was what you really wanted." He looked into John's eyes. "Only if I was who you really wanted."

Byers blinked. "I thought you were in love with Yves, Jimmy. Are you saying you're gay?"

Jimmy smiled and shook his head. "No, I'm not gay. And yeah, I really like Yves, but I like guys too."

Byers lay silent for a long moment, contemplating what had just been said. He opened his mouth to speak, but a loud moan from Langly interrupted him.

"Oh, maaaaaaan," the blonde groaned.

"Sounds like somebody's got a hangover," Jimmy said, laughing.

"Aspirin," Langly whined. "And you make any hangover jokes, I'll make you drive all the way home, Gigantor."

"Langly, if you're that hung over, there's no way I'd trust you to drive to begin with," Byers said. He sat up. Jimmy's arm remained draped casually around his waist, one warm hand on his hip, unmoving. He yawned and stretched as Frohike joined them in the land of the living.

"Oh God," Frohike moaned, putting on his glasses and looking at the clock, "we have to get on the road."

"I really need a shower first," John said, getting out of bed. His eyes caught Jimmy's for a moment, and there was an intensity in them he'd never seen before. He needed time to think, to sort out his head and his emotions. Nothing felt normal right now, and he hoped that by the time they got home, he'd be able to resolve some of the mess that mired him.


ON THE ROAD
ALABAMA
LATE NIGHT

Frohike had been just as hung over as Langly, so Byers and Jimmy had been driving all day while the others slept off their headaches in the back of the microbus. Byers had said little, lost in thought as he drove, or staring off into the distance from the passenger seat. Most of his 'conversation' had consisted of making 'I'm listening' noises during Jimmy's running monologue about whatever caught his eye.

John's mind was crowded, swimming, barely able to contain his fears, his anger, his shame, his confusion. Images of Korowski's menacing figure moved at the edge of his vision as the day passed, leaving him jumpy and irritable. Sometimes, just for a moment, he could feel the other inmates' hands on him, and Korowski's weight on his back as the man attempted to rape him, the man's fingers digging into the flesh of his hips, the pain of the man's hard cock battering at his ass trying to penetrate him. Mixed disturbingly among those images were flashes of Jimmy's friendly face, the warmth of his body against John's back, the comforting embrace of his arm around John's waist in the night, Jimmy's hand resting softly on his hip. It was hard to tell where one image, one feeling began and another ended.

The blue sign of an impending rest stop caught Byers' eye. "Jimmy, I need to stretch my legs and use a bathroom. Let's stop here."

"Oh, yeah, me too," Jimmy said. He signaled and moved into the right lane to exit.

Byers looked back at Frohike and Langly, both still sleeping on a foam mattress on the floor under the banks of equipment behind the bench seat. Langly's head was pillowed on Frohike's chest. He was drooling slightly, leaving a dark, damp spot on Frohike's henley. "You think they're ever going to wake up?"

Jimmy laughed. "Maybe in a couple hours."

"It would be nice if they'd drive for a while."

"Yeah, it would." Jimmy pulled into the deserted passenger vehicle parking area. "You wanna call it a night and try to get some sleep here?"

Byers nodded as the van shuddered into silence. "I think we'd better. We can't afford another night at a motel. Unfortunately, I don't think the bench seat is going to be very comfortable to sleep on."

The two men got out of the microbus and walked toward the brick restroom building together. "You know," Jimmy said, "this is the first time you've said anything to me all day. I was worried. Are you mad at me?"

Byers stopped and stared at Jimmy. Two steps later, Jimmy stopped and looked back at him, apprehensive. "Well, are you?"

John shook his head. "No, Jimmy. I've just had a lot on my mind, that's all," he said softly. Byers started toward the bathroom again, Jimmy falling into step by his side. John put a hand on Jimmy's shoulder and squeezed for a moment, then let go.

"You want to talk about it?"

Byers sighed. "I'm not sure I can," he said quietly.

"Whatever it is, you know you can tell me."

No one was in the restroom when they entered. One bare bulb flickered dimly as the men pissed. Byers kept looking over his shoulder, watching the door nervously.

Jimmy brushed a hand across his shoulder. "There's nobody here but us. Korowski's not waiting outside for you. Lowry's not here either."

John looked over at Jimmy, zipped up his pants, then washed his hands. "I know," he said finally. He examined the fading bruises on his face in the mirror under the low light. They were still tender and a bit painful.

"You aren't acting like you know it." Jimmy stood behind him, watching him as he touched the cut on his face gingerly. "You act like you expect everybody to attack you."

Byers spun and shouted, "Well maybe I do!"

Jimmy backed up a step, raising his spread hands between them, palms out. "Whoa, John, take it easy! It's just me. I'm not going to hurt you, I promise."

Byers took a deep breath and realized that he'd raised his fists, ready to strike. Slowly and deliberately, he unclenched his hands and lowered them to his sides, shaking. "God, I'm a mess," he whispered.

"You're gonna be okay," Jimmy said softly, laying one hand on John's shoulder. "You've been through a really awful experience. I mean, sure, it could have been worse, but it was bad enough as it was. It just takes time to deal with this stuff. You've got to give yourself enough time, that's all."

Byers looked up into Jimmy's earnest face. He was right, of course. All of this had only happened a few days ago. The wound was still so fresh that, were it physical, it would still be bleeding. It wasn't right to treat Jimmy as though he had done anything. In fact, his friend had helped him in every possible way through this whole miserable time.

"I'm sorry, Jimmy."

"It's okay. There's nothing to be sorry for. You didn't do anything."

The men started back for the van. Jimmy stopped at a vending machine and got a couple of candy bars. "You want one?" he asked John.

"No, thanks. I don't think I can eat anything right now, and even if I could, pure sugar wouldn't be it."

"Oh, it's not all sugar," Jimmy said. "There's chocolate and milk and peanuts and..." he stared at the wrapper. "Uh, well, I don't think I can pronounce the rest of this stuff, but it isn't sugar." They stopped and sat at a picnic table near the vending machine. Jimmy peeled the wrapper off one bar and took a large bite.

"Jimmy..." Byers said.

"Mmm?" Bond's mouth was full.

"What's it like?"

"Oh, it's great," Jimmy said through the gooey mass. "All chocolatey, and it's got these crunchy peanuts. Well, they're kinda stale, but --"

"That's not... that's not what I was asking about."

Jimmy looked over at Byers. "What do you mean, then?"

John looked away from Jimmy, casting his eyes to the ground. He paused a moment to get himself together, then spoke very quietly. "What's it like... being with another man." He closed his eyes, trying to block Korowski's face, the reek of stale tobacco smoke, and the weight of the man's body from his memory.

Jimmy thought for a moment. "Well, it's... everybody's different, you know? Like, not all girls are the same, and neither are guys. It depends on what you do, and what you like, and stuff like that."

John shuddered. "What if Korowski had done what he'd intended? What... what if he'd..." Byers swallowed, "what if he'd raped me? What if I'd... liked it or something?"

Jimmy's eyes widened with alarm, and he moved close to John, sliding an arm around his friend's shoulders. "Oh, no way man. That's not what it's like at all. Oh man. No, John. It's never that way if you care about somebody. Would you ask that question if it happened to a girl? If it had happened to anybody but you?"

Byers shook his head, saying nothing.

Jimmy shook his head as well. "Of course you wouldn't. Why would you think that... that rape would be anything like what happens between two people who care about each other? Or even like something people do for fun?" He paused, wrapping both arms around Byers. "What happened to you is a horrible thing, John," he said, quiet and intense. "Nobody deserves to have that happen to them."

"Why did he target me?" Byers asked, his voice breaking. "How could this have happened? Did I do something to provoke him? Was I... was I flaunting myself or something? What made him come after me? Was this my fault?"

"Oh, God, John." Jimmy held Byers' shaking frame tightly. "None of this was your fault. You didn't do anything. You didn't ask for it. You didn't deserve it. Korowski is a sicko. That's why he's on death row in the first place, remember? He did the same thing to other people. He raped and killed six women before they caught him." Jimmy fell silent a moment, and when he spoke again, his voice shook with rage. "It wasn't about you, John. You were just there. You didn't do anything!" Jimmy looked away and said, "If anything, it's all my fault."

John's tremors refused to abate. His eyes were shut tight, and he held onto Jimmy's arms like a drowning man. "Your fault? You stopped him, Jimmy. How could it be your fault?"

Jimmy sighed and held John tighter. "I wasn't there. I didn't notice you weren't next to me. He'd never have had the chance at all if I'd been there with you, where I was supposed to be."

"It wasn't your fault," Byers whispered. "You can't be everywhere, Jimmy. Nobody can. But I just... I wish I knew what I'd said or done. I must have done something wrong. I must have said... God, Jimmy, all my life I... sometimes I wondered what... what it would be like to be with another man. Maybe he could see that. Maybe that's why he did it. He called me a fag -- maybe I..."

"No," Jimmy insisted. "There's no way anybody could have known how you felt unless you told them yourself. I didn't know. The guys never knew, or even guessed. They're almost as freaked out about what happened as you are, but they don't want to let you see it. They're trying to be strong for you, so they can help you. And even if anyone ever did know, that's got nothing to do with what Korowski did. That's not the way rapists think."

Byers' eyes jerked open and he stared Jimmy in the face. His fingers clenched around Jimmy's arm, digging in hard. "And just how the hell would you have any idea what a rapist would think?" The question was angry and sharp, accusatory.

There was no change in Jimmy's concerned expression. "Because back in college, I had a girlfriend, Betsy, who was raped. I learned a lot more about it than I ever wanted to know. But now I'm glad I do, John, because maybe that means I can help you, if you'll let me. She's okay now. You can get through this too."

John felt the blood drain from his face. "I'm sorry," he whispered. "I didn't know."

"Don't be sorry. I just want to help. I just want to be here for you. The guys, they want to help too. They're real worried about you. We all just want you to be okay."

"I feel like I'll never be okay again."

"You just need time, John."

Byers shook his head, trying again to push away the images and sensations. "I can't get it out of my head. And it's not just him, it's last night -- it's the weight of his body on my back, and you against my back last night; his hands digging into my hips, and your hand on my hip; God, Jimmy, I can't..." John held his breath behind gritted teeth, willing himself to strangle the tears before they fell. He felt emasculated enough as it was, surviving the assault, acutely and painfully aware of his own long-stifled fantasies and forbidden desires, no longer able to sort out the difference between Jimmy's caring touch and the violence of Korowski's attempted rape.

Finally, unable to hold his breath any longer, Byers gasped and quiet sobs wracked him. Jimmy held him, stroking his back and letting John's body give in to its demands for release.

Byers didn't hear Jimmy's whispered words of comfort, conscious only of the agony in his heart and his desperate confusion and conflicting emotions. He was terrified of being touched, but craved the comfort of a friend's embrace. His disgust at himself and Korowski over the attempted rape left him sick in his soul, but Jimmy's comforting presence, his experiences, and his heartfelt offer to do anything John might ask, forced Byers to confront the questions he had buried for so long about what it would be like to be with another man.

Byers could hear his father's voice in his head, lecturing him about the proper way to be a man. Men didn't cry, and here he was, sobbing in Jimmy's arms. Men stood up for themselves, and he'd had to call on Jimmy for help during the assault. Men acted with confidence, and his mind was so clouded with confusion right now that Byers wasn't sure which way was up. But most of all, men were men because they desired women, and while John was very familiar with that desire, in his mind and his betraying body, he'd felt desires for men, had known men he would have willingly been with if he could only break through the social stigmas and the fear that surrounded those needs. John's family, his church, and the society he grew up in had encouraged him to be the good little straight boy, and he had always considered himself one, even in those occasional moments of curiosity.

What had happened to him violated all the taboos. The assault had torn away his confidence in himself, and left the label of his 'straightness' a shambles, exposed for the farce it had always been. And yet Jimmy was obviously not exactly straight either, but he epitomized all the things that John's father would have been proud of, things that signified straightness, things his father would have considered male and proper. Jimmy might not be particularly well equipped in the IQ department, but no one could deny that he was a very masculine man. Jimmy Bond was strong and confident, able to take care of himself physically, and he was obviously and openly attracted to women. And yet, he had confessed to not just an interest in men, but actual sexual and emotional involvements with them.

John knew in his heart that he loved Susanne deeply, even though they would probably never have their 'someday.' He had failed to keep Susanne safe; hell, even now, after she'd been freed from her black ops captivity, they couldn't be together. He wouldn't be able to protect her, wouldn't be able to keep the men who had used her from finding her again if they were together. Were those failures of his manhood, or just fate kicking him in the nuts? Maybe his father had been wrong. Maybe the church and society were, too. It wouldn't be the first time in his life that the foundation of everything he'd believed in had been proved far less trustworthy than it appeared.

Byers was exhausted from his now slowing tears, his body drained. Jimmy still held him, still whispered to him, assuring him that he was safe and cared for, that everything would be all right in the end.

"C'mon, John. Let's get back to the van. You really need some sleep."

Byers nodded. "Thanks, Jimmy," he said. He leaned into his friend, Jimmy's arm around him as they walked.

When they arrived at the van, rather than opening the passenger door, Jimmy opened the side door. "Okay guys," he said, shaking Frohike's leg -- the closest limb to where he stood -- "rise and shine. "

Frohike and Langly startled awake, cursing and moaning.

"Fuck, it's dark," Langly grumbled.

"What time is it?" Frohike asked.

"About 1:30 in the morning," Jimmy answered. "Me and Byers have been driving all day. We need some sleep."

Frohike stared for a moment. "Where are we?"

"Rest stop in Alabama, an hour or so outside of Montgomery," Jimmy said.

"God, I gotta piss," Langly said, staggering out the door.

"I don't care what you guys do, as long as you let us get some sleep," Jimmy shouted to Langly as the blonde hurried up the path to the restroom.

Frohike hauled himself to his feet and stretched. "Oh shit, the skinny bastard drooled all over me." He rubbed at the wet spot on his chest and ran after Langly.

John crawled into the back of the microbus and collapsed on the foam mattress, drawing some of the blankets up around himself, then removed his tie and unbuttoned the top buttons of his shirt. The foam didn't offer much cushioning from the hard floor of the van, but it was better than nothing. He held up one edge of the blankets, inviting Jimmy to join him.

Jimmy followed John into the van, slamming the door behind them, then curled up next to Byers. "Are you feeling any better?" he asked.

Byers nodded, and shifted his weight, seeking a more or less comfortable position, then rested his head on Jimmy's chest. Jimmy hesitated a moment, then wrapped his arms around John.

"Will you be okay with this?"

"Yeah. Thanks, Jimmy." He lay in the dark, silent for a few moments, waiting for Langly and Frohike to return.

Restless, he shifted his weight and leaned up on one elbow, looking into Jimmy's face. "Actually, there's one more thing I'd like before I try to sleep."

"What's that?"

Byers leaned down slowly, nervous and tentative. His lips brushed Jimmy's gently. Jimmy hesitated, trying to determine if Byers meant it, then softly responded to John's timid kiss, opening his mouth and moving his tongue along John's lips, letting Byers decide what was enough.

John shuddered and gasped, but pressed his own mouth to Jimmy's more firmly, his heart hammering. The tip of his tongue slid along Jimmy's, and they both breathed deeply, savoring the sensuality of it.

Suddenly, Byers pulled away, afraid of his response and the alarming intrusion of images of the assault.

"It's okay," Jimmy said. "You don't have to do anything you don't want to. If you aren't ready for this right now, I'll still be here when you are. Just relax, John. Try to get some sleep."

Byers sank back into Jimmy's embrace, resting his head on his friend's chest. With an exhausted sigh, he closed his eyes. He felt Jimmy pull the blankets up to cover his exposed shoulder, then his friend's arms closed around him again. Byers knew that nothing about this was going to be easy or fast. He still felt the fear and the confusion with terrifying intensity, but at least for now, more than anything, he felt safe.

end


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