Warning: I kind of feel like I shouldn’t have to say this anymore…but some language.
“I don’t think he’ll ever love me.”
Six months, he’d made it six months before breaking down and asking Caleb for help. Tony had grown more and more distant in the last few months. Of course it wasn’t all Tony’s fault, Riley was dealing with some things too. Things he didn’t want to burden Tony with but that was causing tension in their relationship. The closer they become physically, the more they grew apart emotionally. Riley wanted to be understanding and patient but he was running out of ideas.
“Have you told him that you love him yet?” Caleb Romajin, his wulfric, leaned against the seat cushions. When Riley shook his head, he said, “If he won’t say it to you, maybe you need to say it to him.”
Riley had come to The Falls in a pissy mood and Caleb had taken one look at him and demanded to know what was wrong. It had not been a suggestion. So Riley had told him everything. He’d been surprised at how calm his pack leader was to learn that his nephew was sleeping with a man. Apparently, Tony had come out to all his family years ago.
“Maybe.” Riley wasn’t sure that would work. Tony must know how he felt; he’d all but said the words the first time they’d made love. Confessing to dating only people who reminded Riley of him should have been a dead giveaway.
“He clearly has feelings for you otherwise he wouldn’t be with you. But my nephew is not the most communicative person. I think Dre got that trait. However, he does feel things more deeply than his siblings do. He’s always been the odd man out in that family. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him cry, not even as a young child.”
Caleb laughed, remembering something. “Dre cried about everything! He was always cuddling with someone, tears in full effect. But Tony, he spent most of his childhood soothing his twin, being the caregiver. Connor is a good man, a good father but he was wrapped around Eva’s finger and Dre, well, he had me. Tony was his mother’s favorite and that would have been fine except she wasn’t around much and she is very closed off. I think he just needs to know it’s okay to show emotion. He needs to feel safe.”
“How would you feel about getting a dog?”
A dog? Riley glanced up from the machine he was fixing to see Tony leaning casually against a table. Too casually, which meant he was nervous. “I guess…”
“Never mind. It was just a thought.”
Riley stopped what he was doing and said, “Tony, tell me. What do you want?”
Tony shrugged. “It doesn’t matter.”
“It always matters.”
Tony rolled his eyes but smiled. “Fine. I want a dog, Riley.”
Riley went back to fixing the machine, grinning. “Then we’ll get a dog.”
His smile grew wider when he heard Tony walking away, grumbling softly. Even after all these months, it felt new and amazing that he could say “we” when talking about him and Tony. They were a couple and he could finally call Tony, his. Riley wondered if that feeling would eventually go away or would he still be in awe fifty years from now. He hoped it was the latter.
The thought of being an old man with Tony made his canines itch. He stood back and stared into space. Could it be…holy shit. He thought about the first time he and Tony had sex, his need to mark him, the way he seemed to always know when Tony was in the room, even if he hadn’t laid eyes on him yet. Now the need to mark Tony surged through him at the thought of spending their lives together. His wolf wanted to mate with Tony. Holy shit! Riley was floored. No one in his family had ever found their mate. But he had…
He wanted to run into the other room and tell Tony. He wanted to call his mom…
Reality came crashing down around Riley. He couldn’t tell his mom, he couldn’t tell anyone. He couldn’t mate Tony. He was without a pack, without a home or family to welcome Tony. Riley closed his eyes and let the hopelessness of the situation wash over him.
The best he could ever do for Tony was get him a damn dog.
A few hours later, Riley heard something crash and ran into the room. “What happened?” He sighed when he saw Tony. A ghost again.
“I don’t know.”
Riley studied Tony for a while. This was the third time in as many months that he’d changed. “I think it’s time you made an appointment to see Dr. Gates.”
Tony frowned and started to argue but Riley cut him off. They had the same argument every time and every time he caved. It was Tony’s body. He could decide what he should do with it, but this was getting ridiculous. “Tony, this is not normal, even for you. You’re not just turning, there are moments when you sort of – flicker – in and out. You need to see Dr. Gates.”
“I don’t. I’ll just increase the dosage on my medicine.”
Riley sighed. He was not having this conversation again. “Will you call him or should I?”
Tony glared at him and tried to pick something up from the table. When his hand when right through the thing, he growled and said, “Fine. I’ll call him just as soon as I can pick up the damn phone.”
Riley watched him for a few more minutes before nodding and turning back to his workspace. Frankly, he was getting tired of watching Tony suffer like this. Luckily, it had never happened in a public space after that first incident at the bar. But their luck would run out at some point and then what? No, Tony needed to see Dr. Gates now.
“Of course you’re coming with me!” Tony stood there, waiting.
Riley frowned. “Are you sure you want me in there? I can just wait outside.” They were outside of Dr. Gates’s office and Riley wasn’t sure he should go in with Tony. Weren’t there rules about doctor/patient confidentiality or something?
“You wanted me to make this appointment. You wanted me to see him. So here we are. No, you cannot sit outside. Let’s go.”
Trying not to smile, Riley walked over to Tony and gave him a quick kiss. “Aye aye captain.”
It made him inordinately happy to know that Tony wanted him in there. The last six months had been harder than Riley cared to admit. He missed his family and although his brother Josh sent him an email every now and then, Isaiah wouldn’t speak to him at all.
He was forced to travel to The Falls every full moon to run with Caleb’s pack. He wasn’t officially pack yet and wouldn’t be until the next Witch’s Moon. And there was always the danger of running into his family before then. He was pack-less and it made him feel unsteady. Being with Tony was the only thing he had left and these small moments, where he truly felt a part of Tony’s life, were precious to him. It made him hopeful that one day Tony would love him. He just needed to be a bit more patient.
Brian wanted him to get a brain scan. While waiting for the machine to start, Tony turned his head and stared at Riley, who was standing on the other side of the glass wall. He thought about that morning, of Riley, still warm and soft from sleep. He had looked at Tony with such love in his eyes.
He played back Riley’s words to him. “Whatever is wrong, we’ll face it together.”
Tony wanted to face everything with Riley. He loved him; he knew that now. But Riley was keeping things from him and that hurt more than Tony wanted to admit. Franco had kept things from him and because Tony loved him, he’d overlooked it. He’d overlooked the lies and the drugs and…God, had Franco ever loved me? Until he and Riley talked about whatever the problem was, Tony couldn’t put himself out there again.
“Alright Anthony,” the nurse said, “we’re going to start now, so please stay as still as you can. My name is Ann-Marie and if you sit tight, this will be over in twenty minutes, okay?”
Tony nodded and continued to stare at Riley.
Back at home, Tony sat at his desk, working on his weekly reports. The only person who read them were Dr. Gates but Tony liked to think that one day these would become public record and so he spent a lot of time on them.
“Tony, what are you doing?” Riley stood in the doorway, watching him.
Walking into the room, Riley sat in the chair across from Tony’s. “Anthony.”
“Yes, baby?” Tony glanced up and grinned while Riley laughed.
“You think you’re cute, huh?”
“Yes. Yes I do.”
Riley got up from his seat and prowled towards Tony. He closed the laptop and swiveled Tony’s chair so it was facing him. “Tony…”
“Y-yes?” Riley had this way of looking at him that just turned his brain into useless mush. It was a little unsettling.
“You’ve been in here all day. I’m bored.”
“I was writing my report.” Tony pulled on his lower lip with his teeth. He stopped when he noticed Riley watching his lips with a slight frown on his face. “Did you…want to do something?”
“Yes.” Riley smiled and traced Tony’s lips with his index finger.
“Okay, what?” Tony hoped…
Riley let go of the chair and leaned back against desk. “Let’s go to the movies.”
“What?” That was not what he’d been hoping for.
Riley laughed. “You are so damn greedy. I want to go out. Do you know we’ve never been on a date? Where does that happen?”
Tony frowned. “Why do you want to date? We’re already having sex.”
Riley’s jaw dropped. “Anthony Jacob London! I am not some cheap man whore. I want to be wined and dined.”
Tony shook his head. Riley continued to amaze him. “Riley, you’re my boyfriend. I’d like to think that I don’t have to bribe you to get you in bed.”
Riley stared at him and Tony stared back. Why would Riley want to move backwards in their relationship? He didn’t want to have to buy Riley’s affections, the way he had with Franco. They were doing so well, weren’t they? Had he done something wrong? Had he missed an anniversary or something? Tony tried to think back. He was forgetful sometimes but surely he’d remember something as important as an anniversary.
Was it Riley’s birthday? He felt the old panic set in and had to grip the edges of his seat so his hands wouldn’t shake. What had he missed?
Riley offered him a hand and he took it. The instant they made contact he started to calm down a bit.
Riley pulled him up from his chair and placed both his hands against Tony’s face. “I don’t need bribes to love you. I do that freely. Do I need to come up with a bribe for you?”
“No.” Tony continued to stare, wide-eyed. Did he just say he loves me? Was he expecting Tony to say it back? Not now, Riley. Don’t ask me to say it now, please. I’m not ready.
“No?” Riley asked, trying to read him.
“No.” But he did love him. God, how he loved this man. He’d almost had a panic attack a minute ago from just the thought of disappointing Riley in some way. It was just, Riley deserved so much better. Tony had one relationship before this and Riley had nine. While Riley seemed well-adjusted – knew what he wanted and who he was – Tony was still having panic attacks. How could he possibly be enough for Riley?
Sighing, Riley let his hands drop and took a step back. “You’ve had a stressful morning. We don’t need to go out. I’ll make dinner.” Tony nodded and watched Riley walk out the room. Before he passed through the doors, he turned around and said, “Don’t forget, I’m going to The Falls this weekend. I think I’m going to leave a day early this time.”
“That would mean you’d have to go tomorrow.” He was upset. Tony knew it, he just, he couldn’t give Riley what he wanted, not yet.
“Yeah. I’m thinking of getting an early start too. Probably will head out in the morning.”
Tony didn’t say anything, just nodded. Even if he hadn’t done anything wrong before, he knew Riley would now be upset by his lack of response. Tony looked down and watched as his hand flickered.
Riley walked into the kitchen and started prepping for dinner. Caleb was wrong. Tony didn’t love him, he didn’t need time or help or encouragement. Riley had done what Caleb had suggested, he’d said the words and Tony had fucking…rejected him. He’d all but begged Tony to love him back and he’d said no.
This was the man that he was supposed to spend the rest of his life with, mate with? He doesn’t want me. No, he wants me, he just doesn’t love me.
Riley had given up everything to be with him and Tony didn’t even want him. At least nothing above the waist. Maybe his hands, he seemed to like those and his lips, but only if they – “Shit!”
Riley looked down at his hand, he’d just sliced open his finger. His agitation became anger. “Fuck it. He’s getting pizza tonight.”
An hour later, the pizza had arrived but Tony was still upstairs. He would not go get him. Maybe that was the problem, he let Tony get away with treating him like shit. Riley shook his head as soon as the thought entered. It wasn’t true, Tony was good to him. Tony was everything he’d ever wanted in a partner, minus the love part.
He found himself going upstairs. No matter how angry he was or how hurt he was feeling, he would always be there for Tony. His wolf demanded it, his heart demanded it. He loves me, I know he does. He just needs more time.
Maybe if he said it enough times, it would finally be true.
“What happened to your piercings?” Riley stood in the doorway of the living room. He’d been gone for a week. A whole week with no contact aside from a phone call before bed every night. It had been extremely unsatisfactory, but he’d needed the space.
He’d spent most of his time in The Falls talking to Caleb about the logistics of joining his pack. The whole situation felt hopeless. The next Witch’s Moon wouldn’t happen for another seven years, which meant eighty-four trips to The Falls, eighty-four chances for his wolf to try to return to his family, eighty-four opportunities to mate with Tony wasted.
He’d almost told Caleb about Tony but he didn’t know how he’d take it. After all, Tony was his nephew and Caleb would want what was best for him. And in Riley’s current situation, it wasn’t him. It was one thing for them to date, but mating? Caleb and Connor had both found their mates, how would they feel about Riley wanting to bind Tony like that? Riley had nothing to offer him. Plus, Tony wouldn’t want to be stuck with him, not forever anyway.
Tony glanced at him from where he sat on the couch, sucking on his ring-less bottom lip. “I saw you staring at them the other night. I thought maybe you didn’t like them, so I took them out,” Tony said.
Riley walked over and pushed Tony aside so he could sit behind him. When he was comfortable, with Tony draped over him, he said, “Tony, I’m going to say something and I want you to listen carefully.”
There was a pause and then Tony said, “Okay.”
“I love you the way you are, in the here and now. That includes your piercings, your tattoos, and your horribly emo eye makeup.” Tony laughed, making Riley smile in relief. He wasn’t taking this the wrong way, good. “I want you to be happy, Anthony. And being happy means doing what makes you feel good, looking however makes you feel confident, saying whatever gets your wants and needs across to me.”
“But Riley, I want you to be happy too.” He picked at invisible lint on Riley’s jean-clad knee and then smoothed his palm over the spot. The heat from Tony’s hand radiated all the way up Riley’s body and he shivered. Wrapping his arms tighter around Tony, he sighed. His wolf wanted to come out and play with its mate. He and Tony would have to talk about this, and soon.
“I am happy, babe. I’m happier than I’ve ever been. I have my man, a good job, my health.” He thought of the one thing he didn’t have, a family. But he’d made his decision and it had been the right one. He would choose Tony every single time. Even if he couldn’t make it official, in his heart Tony was his family now. “Promise me you’ll stop trying to find ways to change for me. I love you the way you are right now. Okay?”
Tony studied him and looked like he wanted to say something but instead just nodded and said, “Okay.”
Riley sat up and pulled him closer. When Tony’s hand gripped his hair, he moaned. It took so little to get turned on where Tony was concerned. He leaned in close and whispered, “Good. Now with that being said, I was staring at your piercings because I was trying to decide if you suck on that lip ring on purpose.”
Tony frowned in confusion. “I don’t understand.”
“It makes me want to pull your bottom lip into my mouth and suck on it for you. That’s what I was thinking about the other night.” He felt Tony’s hand tighten on his hair.
A wave of lust and sadness hit him. He was used to the lust, he liked that one. The sadness was new but he had a good idea where it was coming from. There was so much they still needed to talk about. He knew this new look was Tony’s way of apologizing for the last time they saw each other. For being unable to love him back.
“Yeah, I know baby, I know.”
A few hours later they were lying on the floor, Riley showing Tony just how happy he was to see the piercings back in, when his phone started to ring. Groaning, he looked up, halfheartedly searching for his jeans.
“Let it go to voicemail, Riley.” Tony’s eyes were hazy and he pulled Riley back down on top of him.
“Aye aye captain.” Riley was trailing down Tony’s sternum with his tongue when the phone started to ring again. “Fuck.”
“Do not answer that phone.”
Riley smiled at his insatiable lover. “It might be important.” He leaned up and kissed Tony before standing and grabbing his jeans.
“Hello?” Riley said distractedly, Tony was removing his boxers.
“Riley? Is Tony there with you? She’s gone man, she’s gone…I don’t know what I’m going to do. Fuck!”
Riley turned away from Tony, frowning. “Whoa, Dre. Slow down, what’s wrong?”
“It’s Maya. She…she’s gone. I need – I need Tony. Where’s Tony?”
Riley’s body tensed up and he looked over at Tony.
“What’s wrong with Dre?” Tony was standing now, concern etched all over his face.
Riley shook his head. “I don’t know. Something about Maya?”
Tony’s eyes widened and he snatched the phone from Riley’s hand. “Hello, Dre? Tell me.”
Riley stood there for a moment and watched Tony as he tried to soothe his twin over the phone. Then he walked around the living room, collecting clothes and getting dressed. Whatever was wrong, he had a feeling they would be making a trip to Isla Paradiso tonight.