But this time is special.
Not only because participating in fire_fic was incredibly important to me, but because ... and this is going to sound silly, but ... this is the first time anyone said ... 'Hey. Snow. I want you to write me something and I'm willing to give money for it'.
And that it should be moosesal making me feel this way is no less important. I met Sal back in Vegas, at the first!evah! WriterCon, which was my first!evah!vacation all by myself. In fact, she was one of the first people I met after getting off the plane. I had no idea who she was, she wasn't on my flist, she was a friend of a friend and after taxiing to the hotel, we stayed in the bar talking when everyone else went off to bed.
And she was SO NICE. So fun. So ... normal and beautiful and full of laughter and joy that I do believe, between moosesal, debvel and a few others that meeting them first set the tone for that entire weekend for me.
Anywhoooo ... on to the fic. Sal asked for more of my cracktrailer Dave, with anyone. Het, gen, slash, whatever. You'd think that would be easy, wouldn't you ... she's given me permission to post this without having read it first, so all I can say is ... Sal, I hope this is worth your time and your generous donation to fire_fic.
I hope it moves you.
And Thank You.
We All Fall Down
for moosesal’s most generous contribution to fire_fic
Dave/Chris, Dave/Multiple pairings
Special appearance by Mike Rowe (Dirty!Jobs)
AN: This is not a happy fic. I know. You’re shocked.
Beta’d by lostakasha and stir_of_echoes
and a big smooch to tabaqui, as always.
When you dig my grave,
Could you make it shallow…
So that I can feel the rain.
They didn’t have reunions.
No one sent out fancy invitations after ten years, not fifteen and not even after twenty years had passed. There was no committee formed, no one left behind who cared enough to keep track of all those who left town, voluntarily or not. There was no theme to be decided, no guest book to sign. No fancy punch bowl to gather around and spike with bottles of whiskey. No drunken declarations of past love, no new wives or husbands or lovers persuaded to appear and parade around with pictures of smiling kids standing in front of a house that would never be completely paid off. No fancy cars in the parking lot of the high school on a steaming, humid summer night.
They didn’t keep in touch.
Dave never called Chris. Eliza never drove up to New York to visit Sarah in her townhouse. No one visited Jimmy in the county jail and during the occasional times he was out, he never went by Vinnie’s trailer to shoot the shit, drink a beer and remember summers at the lake. When Alexis drove down from Atlanta to visit his mother once a year on Thanksgiving day, he didn’t even turn his head when he passed Big Bob’s used car lot. J. August never passed time with Julie, although he paid the child support on time every month even without the DNA test.
They fragmented and separated. They each went their own way, following a path that was three-quarters fate, one-fourth choice. Some rose above the trailer park and some wallowed beneath it.
They didn’t have reunions at all.
They had funerals.
There wasn’t a set chain of communication. Word moved through families, through sisters and brothers, through uncles and grandparents still living in the same house on the same block with the same mothball-scented closets. It passed through letters and emails, short calls for an Aunt’s random recipe that couldn’t be duplicated. It was mentioned in passing after Sunday afternoon football game recalls and through the gossip of deputies and prisoners.
And they always came. Every single one of them.
For parents. For family.
For each other.
The silk tie slid through Dave’s fingers as he pulled it around his neck, the stiff collar of his white shirt standing up against his skin. He was looking in the mirror, his suit jacket hanging on the back of a chair behind him in his old room in his parent’s house. It seemed smaller than he remembered. His room, his bed, his closet. Nothing had changed and yet, everything had changed.
The clothes he’d left behind still filled dresser drawers. The cleats he’d worn were still spattered with red mud on the carpet under his bed. A history book he should have returned thirty years ago sat on a small desk. Cheap gold-painted trophies stood on shelves that were dusted weekly by a maid who didn’t know and didn’t care that Dave had been the quarterback on the only state winning team their town had ever seen.
Pictures of Dave on game days in uniform, smiling with the team lined the walls. Dave stood, silk tie frozen between his fingers as he realized that in this room, in this house, in this town, his life had ceased to move forward after his senior year. He was and forever would be that wide-shouldered boy.
It was freaking bizarre and he laughed. Tried to dispel the weirdness by reminding himself that he had gone to college. That he had graduated, not even needing the scholarship at the end. That he had gotten a great job. That he had never come back home to stay. That he had people he considered close friends in other cities, in other states. In other countries. That he had succeeded and moved on and that he didn’t have to return for any form of validation. He knew who he was. He knew what he had. After his father passed, he sent his mother plane tickets and they spent Christmas and each New Year in Paris, in Rome, in Los Angeles.
But for the funerals, he would never come home at all.
He started knotting the tie and a flash of blue thread under incandescent light took him straight back to tenth grade and Chris’s eyes.
Chris. Standing in front of him, fingers fumbling with a narrow cotton tie, wearing a thin, faded shirt that his mother had probably bitched non-stop about while picking it up at the DAV, because God forbid she should ever have to do anything for the boy that had ruined her life. Dave knew it, he’d heard it.
Afternoons spent over at Chris’ place, watching WWF on a thirteen-inch black and white TV until his mom came home from her shift at the diner. She slammed dirty dishes around; she washed out a tumbler and filled it with vodka. And she never stopped bitching about how having a baby had left her with this, with no husband, no time for boyfriends, no time for anything but work and drinking and the occasional fifty from a one night stand. Left with nothing at all.
But it was the last day of finals week and every student in school was expected to dress the part. The girls all wore silk and lace, stockings and heels. Some yellowed and borrowed and snagged. Some so virginally white and fresh from Jolie’s downtown boutique that the material was stiff with starch. The boys in dress shirts and ties. Jackets optional. The single way out of it was to ditch and Chris couldn’t, he’d used up all his get out of jail free passes and he had to be there. Even if he had very little chance of actually passing. Even if he was only fifteen and had his feet firmly planted on the road to nowhere.
“Need help, Kane?”
“Just asking. Don’t hurt yourself.”
Dave turned his eyes back to the warped mirror in the boy’s bathroom. Absolutely not watching Chris’ reflection as he fumbled with the tie, ending up with something faintly resembling a bow instead of a knot. Chris yanked the frayed cotton from around his neck just as Dave pulled his own tight. Perfect. Their eyes met in the glass.
“Fine, asshole. Do it.”
Dave stepped away from the mirror and turned to face Chris. A few attempts that were as bad as Chris’ own and he realized what was wrong.
“I need to move. This isn’t working.”
Chris rolled his eyes and huffed. His breath warmed Dave’s fingers.
“Like I didn’t know that?”
“Do you have to be a jerk all the time?”
Dave stood behind his best friend. He looked in the mirror, his reflection caught in eyes that were deeper than they should be. Older, stronger. And his fingers moved automatically. He didn’t feel the smooth curve of Chris’ ass against his groin. He didn’t lean forward and inhale the cheap musk that didn’t cover the salty sweat on Chris’ neck. He didn’t cup Chris’ jaw in his fingers and turn his head. Didn’t find Chris’ lips with his own. He didn’t press into the solid muscle and bone and skin of the boy that stood in front of him with his own weight and he didn’t kiss Chris, feel Chris pushing back. Feel him kissing back. Dave’s tongue didn’t lick into Chris’ mouth and his teeth didn’t drag over the sweet, succulent soft of Chris’ bottom lip as his fingers returned to and tightened the knot around Chris’ neck.
“Looks good, Bo. When we get out of here, let’s go for a swim.”
Dave blinked at the memory. Standing alone in his bedroom, staring into a mirror that wasn’t hazy and warped. Gray hair at his temples, his hands not as steady as they were when he was throwing those passes, when he was touching Chris for the first time. When he was being touched for the first time.
First kisses. It hadn’t seemed wrong or unnatural or twisted to them at all. Not to Dave and Chris, not to Jimmy or Vinnie, Kelly or Seth or Nick or any of the girls that moved in and out of their circle. It wasn’t something they ever talked about. Not once in the years that passed.
It just was.
The first funeral was seven years after they’d all left school, diploma or not. Dave remembered feeling somewhat shocked that it had taken that long. So many of them had been burning at full flame for years. He drove back down without stopping for anything but gas and a pack of Marlboro Reds. He’d quit five years ago, but just pointing his car in a southerly direction made him crave the smoke, made his body want the nicotine with a desire he hadn’t felt for a while.
Dave hadn’t known Kelly that well. Despite the close-knit bond he had formed with others in their group. He’d laughed at the drug-addled antics, the pyro tendencies. He’d shown up, along with everyone else every Friday and Saturday night at the lake in July and August when Kelly had enough shoplifted fireworks to light up the Georgia Dome and he would tie them together, shorten the fuses. Burn his fingers and spray that high-pitched hysterical hyena giggle even when the very hair on his head smoldered and he would have to rip off his shirt before runaway fire did more than skim over his skin.
He fucked Chris in the bathroom of the funeral home. They kissed until it hurt and Dave couldn’t remember a single thing they talked about or if they had even spoken a word. But he did remember running his fingers through Chris’ long hair, pulling it back from his face and tasting each drop of sweat as it formed. As if it were the finest vintage wine he’d ever held on the tip of his tongue. The finest memory.
The gravedigger smirked as if he knew.
Six months later he was back down, wearing the same dark blue suit for Kelly’s twin brother, Nick. Alcohol poisoning and no one around to stop him from emptying another bottle, and the next, and the next.
Dave spread his legs, hunched over the hood of his car, slacks around his feet while Jimmy fucked him. Scrape of rough denim on the back of his thighs, hard buckle of Jimmy’s belt slapping with each thrust. Long cock burning in, blue eyes swimming with unshed tears and those razor sharp cheekbones above swollen, dry lips.
“Just like old times, Dave.”
And it was. Just as good. Just as hot. Just as filled with hidden promise and betrayed trust as it ever was. As it ever would be. Dave came all over Jimmy’s tight fingers and the metallic paint that covered a still-ticking engine. His shoes scuffed with auburn clay and he kept the smell of the preacher’s son on his clothes and hands for the entire drive north.
The gravedigger had stood a respectful distance from the funeral. Shovel in his hand and dirt on his arms where he’d scratched mosquito bites with his gloves on.
Orli’s was in the spring. A year and a half had passed and the Mustang had been exchanged for a Lexus sedan. Dave wasn’t that impressed with the engine, but he loved playing with all the electronic gadgets on the console. He spent the evening after with Russ, reminded of when he was seventeen and the big man had made him crawl, hands and knees up the bed in the dark. How he’d come with only that low voice in his ear and a callused thumb pressing shallow inside his ass.
Eliza passed in the fall and Dave never once thought about not being there. Her cotton-candy breath and long red fingernails had scarred him in such a good way. Left phantom pain and pleasure behind, years after they fucked.
“Why don’t you fly?”
A sleepy voice asked from under the thick comforters that covered Dave’s bed.
“You’re always driving down there. Seems like a waste of two days and a lot of gas.”
His suitcase closed with a click and Dave smiled at the dark, longhaired head that nudged the down filled blankets out of the way, wide shoulders that were too tan for a Northerner. He’d given up blondes with cigarettes.
“I drive so I can leave when I want, Jason.”
He’d also given up the pretense.
“When will you be back?”
“Couple of days. Three at the most.”
“You’ll miss your class.”
Skis stood by the door of their condo. Jason’s bright colored instructor jacket hung by Dave’s coat and his clothes filled the closet they shared.
“I’ll make it up to you.”
“I know you will.”
And Dave carried that sinful smile with him all the way down south.
Seth’s funeral was an event. Backcountry folk dressed in their best denim and flannel. Forty or more people from the city hospital where Seth had worked for years, a dozen children that stood with wet cheeks and dark suits, black dresses fringed with white lace. Dave ended up standing at the edge of the crowd, hands in his pockets. Remembering the wild boy, all red hair and freckles. Thin as a rail and always barefoot, spying on the group at the lake. Forever watching as they drank and fucked and fought.
He lit a cigarette and nodded when the gravedigger asked for one.
“I remember you. From the high school. Watched you all grow, cleaned after you. Still can’t believe you all show up. Every time. Can’t believe any one of you is still above dirt.”
Dave looked at the gravedigger, his head tilted and the sarcasm that came so naturally when he was here dripped from his voice. He had been the school’s janitor for years. Always there, never really noticed.
“You don’t look like my mother, Mike.”
The older man laughed, blew smoke up into the gray sky.
“Good damn thing I ain’t. The things I saw you boys do. To yourselves, to each other.”
“It was just … life.”
Dave felt the taste of the air surrounding him change, Chris had moved from the crowd to stand beside him. Hands deep in the front pockets of black denim jeans, long hair hanging over his eyes.
“But was it good?” The gravedigger asked. He took the last puff from his cigarette as the preacher finished and people started moving away from the rose-covered casket.
Two hours later, stoned on cheap wine and thick joints, Dave had to smile. Chris sprawled out beside him on the narrow, thin-mattress of his bed, in his trailer. Sheet pulled up over their thighs, blankets pushed off to the floor and the past on his tongue, on his lips. Stubble-burn warming his cheeks from Chris’ unshaven chin and jaw.
“Yeah, Rowe, yeah. It was good. It was all we knew. It was everything.”
There was only one funeral Dave hadn’t come home to attend.
He was reminded of it as he slipped out of the house, his mother sitting in the living room alone, her knitting in her lap, eyes on the television. Tears on her cheeks and the phone ringing, ringing, unanswered. He was reminded of it as he entered the funeral parlor, as he took his seat in the back row. The same seat he always took, the same chair that wobbled a little to the left by a white pillar that was perfect for bracing his shoulder against.
He was reminded as people he’d known his whole life filed past him without a nod, without a glance.
Jimmy, stepping up to the open casket then moving to a chair in the second row. Tony, the old sheriff, long since retired, hobbling up on his cane and reaching in to touch the shoulder of the deceased as if he’d known him. As if he’d ever cared.
Julie and J. August with their children, Sarah in silk and fur and Alexis with a woman Dave had never met. Jensen was walking the center aisle with some tall man beside him. Flannel and denim and satin, expensive perfume and drugstore cologne, the place filled until every chair was taken and people stood in the back.
Dave hoped that they wouldn’t ask for personal memories; he was feeling claustrophobic. Sweat ran down his back, tickled behind his ears. Candles were lit and floral displays cluttered around the mahogany and gold.
He stepped out for a smoke before the preacher began. Scuffed his boots in mud as he walked to the cemetery and looked down in the empty grave. Rain dribbled and spat from the thick gray above, the tree branches dropped leaves into the mess of earth below.
Rowe stood off to the side, familiar shovel in his hands. Gloves under his arms as he lit a Marlboro Red with a sigh that said it didn’t taste as good as it should.
A flash of red around a hundred-year-old oak caught Dave’s attention. The smell of musk on his left, faint pressure of fingers on his shoulder and a laugh that couldn’t be heard, but it was. Brown boots stood beside his, warm soft breath on his neck.
He looked back to the gravesite and his lover standing with his mother. Jason holding her arm, faces filled with pain. They dropped single white roses into the sodden dirt and Dave shivered as he heard the soft petals and the strong green stems hit the wet wood. The sound seemed to come from above him. From around him.
The entire world was colorless, black and white and shadowed, but the cloudless blue-green of Chris’ eyes when Dave turned his head. Seth behind them, barefoot and wild. Nick and Kelly, Orli and Eliza, looking like some teenager’s wet dream. Dressed in leather and popping bubble gum behind shiny, cherry-bright lips. Vinnie ducked his head as if he was blushing. Innocent and young.
Dave wasn’t surprised to see his old Mustang parked among the mourner’s vehicles on the narrow cemetery road. Sparkling blue as the sun was shining in just that one spot.
“I’m sorry, Kane. I couldn’t … I just couldn’t be there. See you put in the dirt.”
Chris smiled wider. He shook his head. It didn’t matter, Dave realized. It never had. They were beyond all of that.
“Wanna go to the lake, Bo? Got some primo weed, a twelve pack of Bud. Kelly’s gonna light up the sky and we’ve been waiting for a ride.”
And Chris’ kiss was just as sweet. His mouth just as hot, his body as hard and tight and tempting as it had ever been.
“I’ve been waiting for you.”
Lyrics from Gravedigger by The Dave Matthews Band