In The Pines

The hours slipped away, unnoticed until the day was gone and the apartment was full of shadows. Tyler realized with a start that he was sitting on the couch and had no idea how long he'd been there, lost in his thoughts, wracking his brain. The gun was in his hands, dangling between his knees. The contents of one of the boxes of bullets was scattered across the coffee table. He'd loaded the gun.

He didn't remember doing it.

A chill crept over him, some still-rational part of his mind sending up warning bells. It was the instinct he'd used as a police officer when something didn't feel right. Sitting alone locked up in his apartment all day—he hadn't even gotten dressed, and his stomach told him he hadn't eaten—was not right. And he'd loaded the gun but couldn't remember doing it, didn't even remember getting the bullets out.

Flynn's voice whispered in his ear: forget about all that, love, and come to bed.

He crawled into bed, gun clutched in his hand. He curled up in a ball and waited for sleep to come, for Flynn to come.

For the first time, when Flynn appeared, sitting Indian-style on the bed, he wasn't naked. He was dressed entirely in black, a long-sleeved black shirt with a high collar and black pants. All of his beautiful body was hidden from Tyler's sight.

Flynn looked upset, angry even. "You're not trying very hard. I don't think you really want to be with me."

"I do, I swear I do!" Tyler reached for him, frantic, but couldn't touch him. "I can't figure it out. Do I need to shoot something? Kill something with it? Please tell me, help me so we can be together!"

"I thought you were smart. I thought that's why the gun came to you, because you're clever, police officer."

"I am! I swear I'll figure it out." He reached for him again. "Flynn, please. Let me touch you."

"You won't touch me again until we can be together forever."

"Flynn!" Agony ripped through him, like the agony of the bullets that had once torn apart his legs. He couldn't be parted from Flynn, wouldn't.

"The gun came to you because we were meant to be together. Don't disappoint me. Do you want to leave me here, all alone and heartbroken?" Flynn's voice cracked. "Do you want me to be trapped in this world forever, without you? Only seeing you in your sleep?"

"God, no." Tyler trembled. "I'll figure it out Flynn. I will."

"You have to figure it out quickly. I've waited too long."

"Yes, yes." Tyler would do whatever it took to get to him. The gun was the key. The gun would let him and his lover be together forever...

Tyler awoke with the muzzle pressed to his temple.

He jerked away, frightened, disoriented. He realized the gun was being held there by his own hand. The gun he had loaded and taken to bed with him. And his finger was on the trigger.

"Christ!" he gasped.

It was as if cold water had been thrown on him, bringing him painfully to his senses. He lurched up and flung the gun to the end of the bed. His heart was racing. Morning was seeping through the windows and for the first time in weeks the bed didn't smell like Flynn. It was cold and empty. He was alone.

He was going mad. He had gone mad.