(Takes place from 18-December 1992-21 December 1992)
20 December 1992
Jonathan’s eyes were sore, but he kept them on Claire as she spoke to the Fort Worth police officer. When the clock had finally hit the forty-eight-hour mark, David’s mother had reported him missing. Almost two hours later, a car had arrived at their home, bringing two detectives to ask questions of all of them. Jonathan found it strange the police spoke very little to him, since he’d been the last one to see David. Stranger still, they spoke the longest with his own parents, who’d not seen David in forty-three days, while the person who knew him the best—no, the people who knew him the best—stood by, information completely untapped.
Growling, Jonathan whirled on his heel and stomped back to his bedroom. Trailed by Amy, Chad, Travis, and Bailey, he flung himself onto the edge of the bed, rubbing his face harshly. Amy was first to speak. “I can’t believe they won’t even really look at you—”
“I swear it’s like they think I did it or something. Every minute they let tick by is a minute he won’t get back. Should we start calling hospitals?” Jonathan glanced over at the bare nightstand, his eyes burning.
“I can do that with Mama Claire and Mama Abby, you boys and Bill need to be the boots on the ground, okay?” Amy slanted a glance in the direction of the police officers. “It’s kind of obvious they’re not talking to us because who wants to help the gay boy?”
“It’s true about their views on us homos,” Bailey commented. “I mean, this is Texas, not someplace like San Francisco where gay people are far more commonplace.” He lowered his voice to finish, “They’d be more likely to help anyone but a homo.”
His friends parted like the Red Sea when Claire peered around the hallway and called his name. Jonathan sniffled, answered, “Momma Claire?”
“I told the detectives they needed to speak with you since you were the last person to be with David, other than his “alleged” attacker.” She sniffled. “They also confirmed Jonah was on base at Fort Hood when the “attack” happened, so it couldn’t have been him.”
Jonathan shook his head. “Nothing else makes sense, and I’m not trying to—”
“I know.” She nodded in the direction of the living room. “They want to speak to you.”
Almost an hour later and they’d spoken with all five of them, making it clear they were not to return to the crime scene nor disturb it again, and they confiscated the flannel shirt for evidence. When the detectives left, Amy looked over at Jonathan, saying, “Fuck what they said. They won’t look for him, we will. You boys go out and look for him. Mamas and I will start a freaking telephone tree. Papa Bill, can we get Jonny’s phone hooked back up before you leave with the fellas?”
They searched for hours.
It was almost ten o’clock when Bill pulled the Suburban into the drive, Chad and Travis behind him. Bailey squeezed Jonathan’s shoulder, murmuring, “We’ll find him. I promise, Shea. We will find him.”
Jonathan nodded miserably. “I know, Bay.”
“He’s right, Jonathan. We will find David. You have my word,” Bill vowed. “We will find him and bring him home.”
The boys had dog-piled in the living room, surrounding Jonathan in effort to keep the nightmares back, and the search resumed immediately the next morning, dragging in the parents of Jonathan’s friends. Amy’s mom, and Chad’s and Travis’ parents, and Bailey’s dad all joined in the search for David Blackthorn. A little past five o’clock, they hit a stroke of luck with calls again to the hospitals in the area. Abby was told a patient had been brought in late Friday night, that he’d not woken, and that he bore tattoos all up and down his arms. When Abby asked his age and color of his hair, all the nurse would tell her was that the police had installed two guards around the clock outside his door and that until he woke, they would let no-one in the room.
For over an hour, they tried to devise a feasible way to get into the room to see if it was David. They attempted to talk to the police to see if the detectives had even looked at the patient in the hospital, and ended up leaving a message on their answering machine. Abby cooked dinner as the group of them continued to try to get onto the floor with the possible David, and as they were eating, one of the detectives called back and reprimanded them for trying to glean confidential information from a charge nurse. He told them to let them handle it, that if they wanted to put his photo on milk cartons and fliers, they could, but to stay away from that hospital room. They would be notified as soon as the patient awoke.
As Bill hung up the phone, Jonathan left the table, not waiting for anyone as he threw his bedroom door shut behind him. Stripping out of his clothes, he crawled under the sheets and pulled his pillow over his head, willingly succumbing to sleep in hopes he’d hear David’s voice. Torment with David present was better than torment without him, because at least Jonathan would get a chance to save him. In reality, every avenue was thwarted by the people tasked with finding David.
But I will find you. I promise… and come what may, I will make a way for us to be together, side by side, forever.
Sleep swept over him in heavy waves, dreamless when he needed to see David’s face, and the shadows holding him under were faceless, a terrific undertow holding him under when he tried so hard to surface. Jonathan’s hand caught on something, jolting him up from sleep, but not rousing fully until his mother swatted his rear. Her words reached him—“Jonny, scoot over and sit up! I need your help getting David into bed.”—and he snapped to full awareness in a split second.
Jonathan’s voice, muffled by the pillow, formed a hallowed name. “David…?” His eyes flew wide as he turned to see a silhouette he’d know anywhere… and then as Abby helped David to perch carefully on the edge of Jonathan’s bed, he finished, “Oh, David… oh, God… oh, babe!”
All the air seemed to go out of him and those incredible eyes looked past Jonathan for a long moment before David gasped, and tears spilled down his cheeks. Bruises seemed to be everywhere, he wore a cast on his left arm, and when he stumbled as he tried to stand, his stiff movements spoke volumes to Jonathan of the marks he couldn’t see. Jonathan and Abby caught David and steadied him before he could fall, and as Jonathan helped David into the bed, propping pillows up behind himself and tentatively curling his arm low around David’s belly, his love reached for Abby’s hand, whispering, “Can you call my mom? I don’t want her to worry… and… and thank you.”
Abby smiled, shaking her head. “Oh, honey, you are like a third son to us. I’m just sorry we got hung up on silly details. What should matter is you.” Pressing a kiss to his golden hair, she glanced up at Jonathan before smiling gently at David. “Now relax. I’ll call your momma and get her and your brothers over here. For once, Christmas will fill the house.”
As she disappeared out the door, Jonathan could not stop the silent tears, and he nuzzled David’s hair, breathing him in as his boyfriend hissed, “My apologies for leaving you—”
“No, no…” Jonathan shook his head vehemently, “Baby, you don’t need to apologize. We all looked for you when you didn’t come back. The guy at the popcorn stand said he saw you arguing with an older guy in a green army jacket and that he dragged you away by the wrist. It was all he had to say for me to know what happened, but I still wasn’t able to find you afterwards and then your phone rang off the hook. Momma Claire called me the next day asking after you and that’s when I got worried. I told her you’d left during the movie and that I’d tried calling that morning. She said she’d not heard your phone ring, but that you’d never come home. I called up Travis and Chad and we all went looking for you, but we couldn’t find you.”
David gently pressed his cheek to Jonathan’s when Jonathan leaned in to kiss David’s shoulder, his voice again a whisper when he spoke. “According to the lady that brought me here, some guy called 911 after finding me. I was taken to a hospital and apparently had hypothermia enough they needed to put one of those Quantum Leap-looking blankets on me to get me warm enough to take blood. Also this—” David held up his broken arm. “—broke the skin in two places and three ribs are fractured.”
“Are you going to be okay, David?”
Jonathan smiled gently at his little brother, Cody, poking his head through the door. His eyes were so wide and shiny, Jonathan knew he was as worried about David as Jonathan. David patted the bed in front of him. “You can come in, Cod.”
In seconds, Cody was carefully crawling across the mattress and then inching backwards to curl into the line of David’s body, ever-so-slowly laying his head on David’s belly so as not to hurt him. Sound asleep moments later, David’s lithe fingers threaded through the wispy gold locks as he lifted his face up, meeting Jonathan’s gaze as he said aloud, “I know I look a mess—”
Jonathan blinked, exclaiming, “Don’t use your voice! I know it hurts!” One hand tenderly cupped David’s jaw, tears slipping down Jonathan’s face.
“I want you to hear me. I want you to know that I love you, that I’d never leave you, that you’re my world, Jonathan Shea.” David pressed a kiss to Jonathan’s lips, allowing his voice to drop back down to a hiss. “I didn’t think… I didn’t think his anger at me would last so long! Why can’t he be like your dad? Why does he think I’m bad? Am I bad? Jonny, am I?”
“Oh, babe… no, we’re not bad! We’re not doing anything wrong! We’re not… we’re just being who God made us to be! He made us this way!” Jonathan kissed David thoroughly, deepening the kiss this time. “God made us to love one another and He does not make mistakes!”
I am so glad he’s here. I’m so glad he’s in my arms and I’m not letting him go. I’m not ever letting him go. Jonathan kissed David’s mouth again, saying against his lips, “I will never ever let this happen to you again, love of my heart. Never ever again. I’m going to ask my parents if you, Momma Claire, Josh and Lij can stay with us after the holidays.”
“You think they’ll—”
Jonathan nodded. “Oh, I’m pretty certain Mama will make Dad agree.”
David sighed, the corners of his lips lifting. “Told you.”
“Yeah, you did.” Jonathan chuckled. “Sleep, babe. I will make certain no-one touches you while you rest.”
As David succumbed to his fatigue, Jonathan watched over him, making a mental vow to the one he loved. I will never let any unkind hand touch you again. You will only know joy and love so long as I’m around, beautiful man. Tears slid down his cheeks. If we taste salt when we kiss, like Mama’s cross-stitch says, it will be because you are so happy, you can’t contain it. I promise.
Pressing a kiss to David’s golden hair, Jonathan closed his eyes and breathed. “Oh, you’re home!”