Arden thought everything was great with his partner, Serio. They've had some issues in the past, but he never expected to find Serio ready to walk out on him or to realize that he was so close to losing everything he loved.
This is a re-release.
Tired, hungry, and sore from the long plane ride, Arden barely made it up the front step of his townhouse without stumbling. The only thing that kept him going was knowing that his boyfriend, Serio, was waiting for him. He’d have dinner ready, and they could spend the evening on the couch watching old movies like they always did when he came home from a business trip.
He put his key in the lock, but before he could turn it, the front door opened wide, and Serio stood before him.
“Hey,” he greeted him, smiling as he dropped his suitcase on the front porch and reached for the tall Latin man. But his smile quickly died on his lips as Serio stepped away from him.
His gaze dropped to the duffle bag at Serio’s feet. “What were you—”
“You weren’t supposed to be home yet.” Serio shifted away and stuffed his hands into the pockets of his jeans as Arden continued to stare at him.
“I took an earlier flight to get home sooner,” he explained. “Were you—” He swallowed thickly, his throat refusing to make the sounds. “Were you leaving?”
The idea was nearly impossible to bear. If Serio had any family, he’d have thought he was going to visit them. Maybe someone was sick. But that wasn’t the case.
Serio refused to look at him. “I left you a note.”
“Mio caro,” Arden whispered, the endearment easily leaving his chapped lips. “Don’t go. Please. We’ll talk. Work this out. Don’t leave me.”
Serio’s face pinched as he shook his head. “It’s too late.”
Arden didn’t believe that for a moment. “Never. I’m here now. Let me know what I did wrong. I’ll fix it. Right now. Whatever it is.”
“There’s no fixing it. Not this time.” His mouth set in a firm line, Serio bent down to pick up his duffel bag, but Arden’s hand on his arm stopped him.
“There’s always time,” he quietly insisted. His lover had tears in his eyes, making the warm chocolate brown of his irises look like they were about to run. “Oh, mio bello, don’t cry. We’ll get this sorted.” He stepped forward, taking Serio’s face in his hands and laying a gentle kiss on his cheek. “Talk to me. Give me a chance to make it right.”
Shaking his head, Serio backed away. Arden followed him though, staying close to his partner of the past five years. Anything was fixable. They'd promised each other that. No matter what, they could fix whatever was wrong. They had to. He closed the front door behind him. “Serio? Tell me what’s going on,” Arden softly demanded, putting his hands on Serio’s muscular upper arms.
“You weren’t supposed to be home yet,” Serio whispered, his voice breaking through his tears. “This was supposed to be easy.”
Arden shook his head. “What? Leaving me?” When Serio didn’t correct him, Arden’s mouth fell open. “With only a note to explain everything?”
Flushing, Serio turned away from him. “It was a good note.”
“It was still a fucking note!” Arden loudly snapped at him. Serio flinched, and Arden sighed. “All right. I’m sorry. Look, I’m tired. I’ve been traveling most of the day. Let’s talk about this. “
“But see, that’s the problem,” Serio said, stepping around him.
Though he was damn tired Arden moved to quickly block his path.
“Move out of the way. Please.”
Arden shook his head. “No.” He tried to wrap his arms around Serio’s stomach, but his lover stepped out of his way. “What’s the problem?”
Serio pursed his lips. “You can’t keep me here. I want to leave. Get out of the way, Arden.”
He tried to catch him again, and thankfully this time Serio didn’t get away. Though he didn’t let go of the duffel bag in his hands, he let Arden hug him. “Talk to me,” he pleaded, his face pressed against the hard planes of Serio’s broad chest. He breathed deeply, letting his lover’s familiar scent fill his nose, and smiled. “You used the new soap I got you before I left. The goat’s milk stuff.”
The duffel bag fell to the floor and Serio’s arms came around him. “I did. And I liked it a lot. And it made my skin really soft.”
Arden nodded, glad he’d been able to get him something that helped his perpetual dry skin. “If you drank more water…” he lightly teased him.
Serio snorted and kissed the top of Arden’s much shorter head. “You still have to let me go, babe.” He tried getting out of Arden’s hold but he refused to let him.
“No,” Arden stubbornly refused.
“The taxi is probably already waiting out there. I can’t just leave him there,” Serio argued.
Arden shook his head. “Yes, you can. Let him go. Talk to me. No notes, no trying to leave right now. Just talk to me.” He took a breath. “Please. I love you.”
Serio sighed deeply against his cheek. “I love you too. But it’s not enough anymore. We can talk, though. So many years…” He stepped back, and this time Arden let him. Serio shook his head. “A note doesn’t seem adequate anymore. Not now that you’re home.”
“Damn straight,” Arden agreed. He took Serio’s hand, and Serio let him lead him to the living room. He took the other end of their big cream sofa as Serio sat down. “This is all coming out of nowhere. I had no idea that you were thinking about going,” he softly said, reaching for Serio’s hand.
Serio took his fingers in a loose grip between them. “No. Maybe not. But we’ve been having trouble for months.”
Arden nodded. “Ever since I took this job. But we’ve talked about the time away, the long business trips. I thought we were okay. Not great. But okay. So what changed about today?”