They walked into their hotel room and Tony closed the door behind him. He watched as Riley moved around the small room and felt irritated. “Can you believe that he’s already planning to go back to Roaring Heights?”
“Babe, he’s grieving, I’m sure he was just feeling bad and saying things to make himself feel worse. I imagine he’s blaming himself for her death too.”
“I imagine he’s an idiot. He couldn’t save her, no one could.”
“He needs to punish himself for a while, that’s all. If you want, we can ask him to come to Oasis with us.” Riley walked over and tried to pull Tony into a hug, but Tony didn’t want a hug.
“Why would he choose going back to Ariany, though? After everything he’s told me about her, she can’t be a viable option. That’s just so disrespectful to Maya’s memory.” Hadn’t Dre learned anything from Tony’s decisions? You didn’t go back to the person who made you miserable. You didn’t hurt the ones you loved. You didn’t go back, you should never go back…
“Honestly Tony,” Riley stared at him in amazement, “I would have thought you of all people would understand what he’s going through.”
Tony jerked away and took a step back from Riley. What was that supposed to mean? “Why? Because I was so pathetic that I stayed with Franco?”
Riley stared. “Really? Must every conversation be about that guy? Was he that essential to your life? I swear I’m going to find that fucker and kill him one day. Maybe then you’ll stop bringing him up.”
“Well, I’m sorry we can’t all have so many lovers under our belt. I don’t have as much experience as you. He’s all I have to compare you with!”
“Don’t compare me to him!” Riley snapped. He took a deep breath, visibly trying to calm down and rubbed his forehead. “I’ve been with two other men, Tony. You’re the third.”
“Is that supposed to make me feel better? What about the six women!”
“Is this why you asked me about my past relationships? So you could throw it back in my face whenever you’re angry with me?”
“You know that’s not true. Don’t try to turn this on me. I’m not the one who slept with all those women.” Dear God, stop talking. Just stop talking…
“What is your hang-up with the women?” Riley asked, looking exasperated.
“I just don’t see how you can like both men and women. Why don’t you just choose one?”
“I chose you, Tony. You!”
“Yeah but for how long?”
“I don’t know, you’re the one who wanted these ‘sexual dalliances’. How long do you want me for? It’s clear that I’ll fuck you for nothing in return, not even dinner and a movie. No bribes needed, remember?”
Tony stared at him in shock. How could he say that? Think that? He was angry because Tony hadn’t wanted to play games? He tried to back away. He tried to stop his mouth from yelling at Riley. But he couldn’t seem to stop himself.
He was just so angry. At Dre, at life, at the possibility that he could love someone with all his heart and have that person taken away, have Riley taken away or worse, have Riley choose to leave him.
He was angry and scared and he was tired of keeping it all in, of being the strong one for everyone else. He wanted to not need the wall he’d built after Franco hurt him, he wanted to look at Riley and not worry about the other shoe dropping. He wanted to love Riley the way Riley loved him.
He’d watched his sister sitting alone at the chapel and his brother grieving and he was scared that he would end up like them. Alone in the world with no one to grow old with, to care for. He wanted to tell Riley all of this but all he could do was stand there and stare.
“I’m sorry Tony, that was uncalled for. I don’t want to fight with you, babe. Not today.” Riley reached for top button on his shirt to start undressing.
“Well don’t threaten the man I love and -” Tony stopped suddenly.
Riley stiffened and his eyes narrowed into slits. “What the fuck did you just say?”
“Oh my God, I didn’t mean that Riley. I swear I didn’t!” Tony took a step back at the look on Riley’s face. He couldn’t believe those words had just come out of his mouth. He didn’t mean them, he didn’t!
Riley balled his hands into fists and growled, low and deep. “You know what Tony? I’m just going to walk away. Clearly you’re upset and I don’t want to do something that I’ll regret.”
“Riley, please. Don’t leave.” He watched as Riley jammed his feet back into his shoes. Oh my God, what have I done? “Don’t just walk away. I am so sorry.” Tony whispered those last words, acutely aware that his words weren’t worth a damn at the moment.
Riley came at Tony and backed him up until they were against the far wall. He was so angry that Tony tried to turn his own head away, too ashamed to look at him anymore. But Riley wouldn’t let him. He grabbed Tony’s face and jerked it up. “You broke my heart once Tony but I came back because you needed me and I loved you.”
Loved. He loved me. Not loves – loved me. Tony let that litany play in his brain until he felt the tears start to pool in his eyes. He would not cry. He would not cry!
Riley was still talking, “I’ve given up everything for you and I would do it again, in a fucking heartbeat, but I will not be with someone who’s only half-committed to me. Whatever is going on with you, deal with it or talk to me about it. But do not take it out on me.”
Riley lowered his head until their foreheads were touching. He took several deep breaths, trying to control his anger. Soon his hand loosened its tight grip on Tony’s face and crept into his hair. “Tony, I love you, I want only you, but I suffered through you choosing Franco once before. I won’t do it again.”
They both stared at each other for a long time. Tony was standing so close to Riley that he was breathing his air. All he had to do was lean in slightly and their lips would touch. Would Riley let him? He shifted, sliding his head forward the little bit he needed so he could touch Riley’s lips with his own. He gently brushed his lips back and forth across Riley’s, his lip ring a tiny barrier between them. When Riley moaned softly, desperately, Tony deepened the kiss.
He had no idea what he was doing; he’d never seduced a man in his life. But if he let Riley walk out that door he knew he would regret it forever. He loved him and it was time he got his act together and showed him.
“Riley? Love me?” he asked tentatively.
Riley moved his head to the side. “No Tony, I don’t think that’s a good idea.”
“Please, Riley? I am so sorry.” Tony tilted his head to find Riley’s lips again. He kissed him harder. “So very, very sorry.” He punctuated each word with a kiss. He let his hands slide down Riley’s chest until he reached the buckle of his belt.
Riley’s hands came down on top of his, stopping him. “Tony, you can’t just…”
Tony cut him off, kissing him deeper, sliding his hands free and continuing to undo Riley’s belt. When Riley made another soft moaning sound, Tony wanted to shout for joy, but that would mean removing his lips from Riley’s and he couldn’t afford to do that. Riley would make love to him, would use his body to get his anger out and then everything would be okay. He had one shot at this and if he failed, Riley would leave and never come back.
Riley woke up the next morning to find Tony wrapped around his body. Tony had been needy the night before and even in sleep, he was subconsciously holding on to Riley. He tried to extricate himself gently but Tony woke up. Riley watched as he remembered last night. Yeah Tony, you were that guy. He sighed. “Good morning.”
Tony finally let go of him and scooted over in bed. “Hey,” he said softly.
“Let’s never do that again, okay?” Tony paled and a pained expression crossed his face. Realizing what it must sound like he was saying, Riley quickly clarified. “I do not want to be manipulated like that ever again Tony. Sex between us should be about love, not – whatever the hell that was.”
“Riley, it is about love. It always is.” Tony stood and pulled on his boxers. “I’m sorry. I know I keep saying that but I mean it. I really do.”
Riley wanted to be angry, he wanted to feel indignant about being taken advantage of like that but he couldn’t. All his anger went out the window when he thought about the night before. Tony was sexy as hell and Riley’s body craved his. He didn’t like how it happened but he would never refuse Tony anything, definitely not sex. He rose from the bed to put on some clothes too. No reason to show Tony just how not angry he was. They had to discuss this. He couldn’t let this become a pattern. He didn’t want that kind of relationship.
“What?” Tony flinched a little at his harsh tone.
“Are you still angry with me?”
Riley sighed and sat down at the foot of the bed. “No Tony, I’m not. I’m just hurt and little disappointed.”
Tony sat down next to him and looked at the far wall. “Riley, I know I messed up and I know that sometimes I put up a wall and I shut you out…”
“If you know, then why do it?”
Tony looked down at his hands and said softly, “I’m scared.”
Tony was as beautiful as a fallen angel and almost as untouchable. Riley watched as he struggled for the right words. “What are you scared of Tony?”
“That you’ll leave me. That you’ll grow tired of boring old me and move on, to another man or another woman. I’m scared that I’m not good enough for you. That I’ve changed so much you’ll soon realize that the boy you fell in love with is nowhere to be found in the man I grew into.” He looked over at Riley and said, “I’m terrified that the minute I tell you I love you, you’ll stop loving me.”
Riley hurt for this man who had so many fears. All because he’d made the mistake of falling in love with the wrong person once. “Those things will never happen, Anthony. So why don’t you try me? You already know that I love you but if you need to hear it again, then Tony, I love you. I love you more than I ever thought possible and I’m willing to wait for however long it takes you to say it back. I’m in this for the long haul, baby. I love you so much that it hurts to be away from you even for a day. I can’t breathe for loving you. I love you. I -”
“Riley…” Tony interrupted, smiling.
Riley paused. “Yes baby?”
“I love you too. All that stuff you just said. Me too.”
They stayed in Isla Paradiso for another week; long enough for Riley to convince Dre to come back to Oasis Landing with them.
Tony was still upset with Dre for choosing to go back to Ariany but he knew it wasn’t the right time to bring it up. He looked over at Riley and smiled slightly. For all the bad that had happened in the last year, he was grateful to Riley for being there for him. They pulled up in front of Tony’s house and he watched Dre grab his bag and head inside. When Riley turned to follow, Tony stopped him with a hand on his shoulder.
“Riley, I haven’t told my family about us yet. Could you give me and Dre a couple of days alone?” Riley narrowed his eyes briefly before his face smoothed over into that blank look he did so well. Tony hated that look; it meant Riley was feeling emotions that he didn’t want to share. It always made Tony nervous to see that look. “Don’t be angry, please.”
Sighing, Riley said, “I’m not angry, just disappointed.”
“I seem to be disappointing you a lot lately.” He hadn’t meant to wait this long but both Dre and Eva were dealing with such heartbreaking events in their own lives. “I didn’t want to rub my happiness in their faces, Riley.”
Riley nodded, “I get it. I do. I just wish…” He looked away from Tony and back at the house. “But you are happy, right?”
Tony sidestepped so they were looking at each other again. “I am very happy.” He pulled Riley into a hug and said, “Just for a couple of days. He’s expecting my undivided attention and I…I’ll tell him tomorrow. Will you come by for dinner?”
Tony pulled away and smiled. “Great. You can come a little early and cook.”
Riley made a face. “Cooking is for girls, Tony. Men order pizza.”
Tony laughed. “I tell you I love you and you immediately stop feeding me. I should’ve known.”
“Say it again.” Riley demanded.
Tony knew exactly what he wanted to hear and was more than happy to oblige. “I love you, Riley.”
Sighing, Riley leaned in for kiss. “Call me before you go to bed. I want to hear you say that to me before I fall asleep.”
“Okay.” Tony smiled and then stepped back. He watched Riley get back in his car and with a little wave, drive away.
Tony had tried to think of a way to broach the subject of him and Riley with his twin all day. Now Riley was on his way, and Tony still hadn’t said anything. He turned on the stereo and started to make dinner. He just needed to tell Dre. But what if he didn’t approve? His brother was always the hardest person to confide in. His opinion mattered too much.
Dre looked up at Tony in confusion. “Since when do you like rock music?”
“I don’t,” Tony answered, preoccupied with his thoughts.
“Then why are you listening to that?”
Tony looked over at his sound system. “Oh. I – I don’t know. Riley likes it.”
Dre looked around the room and took a deep pull of air. “That explains a lot.”
“Why he was disowned.”
“What are you talking about?” Tony looked at his brother in confusion.
“Didn’t Riley tell you? His mother disowned him, made him Kadzait. I imagine it had a lot to do with him living with you.”
“We’re not…” Dre gave him a look and Tony sighed, “If that were true, Riley would have told me.”
“It is true. And maybe he didn’t want you to feel guilty. Haven’t you wondered why he goes running with Caleb every full moon?”
“I’ve never…asked.” He had wondered but never felt really worried. Riley was always so quiet and contemplative when he came back home. Everything he did and said those few days back was always softer, gentler, kinder. He was more attentive and loving. Tony had decided his trips couldn’t be all bad if that’s the way he was when he came home. Or maybe he just didn’t want to know. Old habits die hard.
But if Riley was exiled because of Tony…
Dre abruptly changed the subject. “This was one of Maya’s favorite songs.”
Tony glanced up at him, jarred from the thoughts swirling in his head. “Was it? Do you want me to turn it off?”
“No. Let it play. It suits my current mood.”
They were sitting on the couch, feeling like teenagers afraid to make too much noise. Dre had gone to bed right after dinner and Tony was trying really hard not to touch Riley, but he was ready to cave. Aside from his trips to The Falls, Riley spent every night with Tony. It was weird to think he would soon leave to go back to his apartment.
“What’s wrong Tony?”
Riley reached out to touch him but Tony flinched away, surprising the both of them. “I’m sorry. I didn’t -”
Riley placed both hands on his lap and looked away. “Did you tell him?”
“Your brother, did you tell him?”
“Yes.” What did his brother have to do with anything?
Riley lowered his head and sighed. “He doesn’t approve.”
“Riley, what are you talking about?” Riley stood up and started pacing and Tony watched him, dumbfounded by his actions. Oh yeah… “Riley, no. My brother is fine with us being together. He actually figured it out before I could say anything.”
Tony had completely forgotten about Dre and his reaction. He’d been sidetracked by the news of Riley’s exile. After his conversation with his twin earlier, he felt torn. Should he bring it up? If Riley had wanted to talk about it, he would have said something. Was this what Riley was keeping from him?
“Then what is it? Why won’t you let me touch you?” Riley stopped in front of him and stood looking down at him. “Do you want me to leave?”
“Oh. No. No I don’t. I was actually hoping you’d stay, I just don’t know if we should.” He looked towards the bedroom Dre was currently in. He didn’t want to rub Riley in his face.
“Are you sure that’s all it is?” Riley sat back down and reached for him again. This time Tony melted into his arms. He wanted to forget. To go to bed and wake up to find this was all a dream. Maya would be alive, Eva would have a beautiful newborn and Riley wouldn’t be exiled anymore. Was that so much to ask for? “Let’s make a deal.”
“What?” Tony lifted his head and frowned at Riley.
Riley let go of him and sat back against the sofa. He was serious when he said, “A deal. I get to ask you a question and you get to ask me one.”
Tony thought about it for a minute. It would be the perfect chance to ask him about his mom. “I can ask anything I want?”
“Anything you want.”
“I get only one question?”
“You get as many questions as I get.”
“How many do you have?”
“I don’t know. It depends on how you answer my first question.”
“Okay. Do you want to go first?”
“Is that your first question?”
Riley laughed. “No. Just extending a courtesy to my dark prince.”
Tony rolled his eyes and leaned back against the cushions of his couch. “You first.”
“Tell me about Franco.”
Tony’s smile dropped from his face. No. “That wasn’t a question.”
“What was Franco like when he was with you?”
“We had our ups and downs,” he said evasively.
Sighing, Tony said, “He could be amazing. Sometimes, he was like a small child, happy and full of life. He wanted to go everywhere and do everything. He loved gadgets and always came up with weird and fun ideas. I loved making him happy.” All his unfinished projects were the results of trying to make Franco happy. He’d failed even at that. “When he wasn’t happy, he could be abusive.” Riley’s eyes started to glow and he quickly qualified, “but not intentionally.”
“Did he ever lay a hand on you, intentionally or otherwise?”
Tony nervously bit his lower lip. Why had he agreed to this? “He – whenever he became angry about something big, like losing out on a role or something, he would get into drugs and alcohol. And the sex would be a little rougher than I was comfortable with. And sometimes there would be bruising…”
“What?” For a minute, he had been back in the middle of it all. For the first time truly seeing just how unhealthy his relationship had been.
“Where would the bruises be, Anthony?” Riley asked through clenched teeth.
“I don’t see how -”
“Where!” Riley was growling.
Tony jumped a little. “Legs, arms, places like that. Once or twice in the face. He-he’s a very strong man.” It was why he’d started wearing the black eye makeup. To hide the bruises. Licking his lips, Tony glanced at Riley. Talking about this reminded him of all the bad. He didn’t like this game anymore.
“I’m sorry, Tony. It’s just the thought of that man touching you in any way – it’s upsetting.”
“It’s okay.” It wasn’t okay. That kind of anger was the same kind Franco battled with. He didn’t want to see those kind of similarities between the two of them. “Tell me about your mother.”
“What? Why?” Riley frowned. “Dre told you, didn’t he?”
“It’s my turn to ask the questions. Why did your mother disown you, Riley?”
Riley looked away from him before saying, “She wants grandchildren.”
If Riley had hit him, it wouldn’t have hurt as badly as hearing him say those words. It was a gentle way of saying she didn’t approve of him being gay. She didn’t approve of Tony. Hadn’t children been the first thing he’d brought up when they came back home? His brother’s words from the night before came back to him. It was the one thing he could never give Riley. “Do you want children?”
“Answer the question Riley.” He felt his hands start to tremble, so he crossed them.
“What do you want me to say, Tony?”
He didn’t know what he wanted, but the lies had to stop. “The truth. I want the truth.”
Riley looked down at his hands. “Yes. I do.” He quickly looked back up. “But we can adopt. If you want.”
Tony took a deep breath and asked his next question. “Do you regret choosing me, Riley?”
Riley’s eyes shot up to his. “No! Not once. Not even when I thought you would never love me as much as I love you. No. To this day it was the best decision I ever made.”
“Okay.” Tony smiled and reached for Riley, but he sat back.
“I still have one more question.”
“Do you still love him?”
“I -” Tony stopped and studied Riley. “Yes.” Riley closed his eyes and Tony took a deep breath. The next thing out of his mouth would be so crucial; he wanted to get this right. “Riley, look at me. I want you to look at me and see that I’m telling you the truth.”
Riley opened his eyes and the pain that Tony saw there astounded him. “Riley, I will always love Franco. That’s not a feeling I can ever make go away. However, I am not in love with him. Do you understand the difference? A part of me will always wish him well and hope he can become the man I know he is capable of being, but I will never go back to him. I will never choose him over you. I love you. I’m in love with you. I want us to be equal partners in everything we do forever.”
He moved over so he could touch the man he planned on spending the rest of his life with. “I have room in my heart for a lot of people. For you, my family, my friends, and for Franco. But you are the only one I have room for in my soul. And that’s the way I like it and I’m hoping it’s the same for you. No, that’s not true. I know it’s the same for you. You’re the one who taught me the difference.”
Riley grabbed on to Tony’s hand and held it tight. “I love you so much, Tony. Can we go to bed now? I need to hold you, baby.”
Tony grinned. “That’s the last question you get for tonight.”
Riley nodded, a tiny smile appearing on his face. “Okay.”
They walked quietly into Tony’s bedroom and lay down facing each other. They kissed and touched and Riley let him take the lead. They didn’t have sex but it was the most intimate moment they’d ever shared. Riley was raw and vulnerable in a way he hadn’t been since the first time they made love and right before he fell asleep, he whispered, “You’re my mate, Tony. Even though I know I’m not worthy of such a blessing, I found you. It’s not just my heart that’s in this, it’s my wolf’s too and we’re never letting you go.”
“I love you, Riley.”
Riley took his hand and squeezed, “I love you too, Anthony.”
A/N: The song playing during the kitchen scene between Tony and Dre has been the theme song for these last few chapters: Stand by Me – Ki: Theory