Judson stood out on the deck staring across the water. His whole body felt numb. He thought he'd dealt with his feelings for Stefan a long time ago. But then his ex-lover had come slamming back into his life and turned everything upside down. Now what was he supposed to do? How was he supposed to deal with the emotions Stefan's appearance had drug up when the man was dead? Judson looked down at his hands. If he closed his eyes, he could still see Stefan lying in his arms. Memories of holding a lover in his arms replaced by the sight of a man who had betrayed him, dying in his arms. Damnit!
"Leave me alone, Mac."
"I think we've left you alone long enough. We need to talk."
"Stefan. And your behaviour since he showed up."
Judson's hands gripped the railing. "Stefan is dead. Leave it alone."
"I would if you will. It's been two weeks, Judson. Two weeks where I've had to sit and watch you mourn for a man who caused you nothing but trouble. He wasn't your friend, Judson."
Judson spun around to face her. "You don't know what you're talking about! You don't know anything about what Stefan was to me!"
Mac took a deep breath as Judson turned away from her. "Maybe not, but my imagination is doing a good job at filling in the blanks. And whatever you and Stefan may have shared once, he killed it when he stabbed you in the back. He betrayed you, Judson."
"Don't make excuses for him, Judson. He stabbed you in the back then he came here and almost killed you."
"But maybe we could have made peace, Mac. You didn't see his eyes in that temple. The regret, the pain.......forget it, you wouldn't understand."
Mac stood with her hands on her hips. "You're right, I don't understand. I don't understand how you can stand here and mourn that man after everything he did to you. And you want to talk about someone in pain, then what about Gabe?"
"What are you talking about?"
"You don't even realize what you're doing, do you? Ever since Stefan showed up back in your life, you've been pushing Gabe away. The pain I see in his eyes is what I understand."
Judson turned to look at her. "Gabe is fine."
"Is he? I mean, his lover has spent the last several weeks mooning over an ex-lover who betrayed him then mourning that same man. You have shut Gabe out completely."
"I just need time to deal with this, Mac."
Mac shook her head. "What you need to do is put Stefan and whatever feelings he drug up in the past. You did it before, Judson. The man is dead. Let go and go back to your life."
"I loved him, Mac. Yeah, I dealt with his betrayal but now I have to deal with his death."
"Fine, drown in your memories of a lost love. But you better realize that by holding onto Stefan, you're going to lose Gabe. Is it worth it?"
Mac turned and walked away. Judson bent his head as the tears built in his eyes.
Judson walked into the room and just stood watching Gabe at the computer. It had been a week since Mac had confronted him. He had left the next day telling them he needed time alone. He was sure Mac probably figured he was off mourning someplace but he had been burying the past. Just like she'd told him to do. It was what he knew he had to do, but he had needed the kick in the butt to actually do it. He had gone to the one place he and Stefan had spent so much time and he had said goodbye... to his lover, his betrayer, to the man.
Gabe turned. "You're back."
Judson moved to sit in the chair next to the young man. "You sound surprised."
"Maybe I am. We kind of thought we'd lost you to a ghost."
Judson shook his head. "I had to say goodbye to Stefan in my own way, Gabe. To let go of all the feelings I had built up over the years."
Gabe looked down at the keyboard. "You still loved him."
"In a way, yeah I did. But a part of me also hated him. Stefan dying robbed me of a chance to confront him with what happened between us. To put it to rest once and for all."
"Or to reunite."
"That wouldn't have happened, Gabe. There was too much hurt between us for that. Besides, I already have my hands full."
Gabe turned to him and Judson saw the pain Mac had told him about. He reached out to caress the younger man's face. "I'm sorry I've put you through this, Gabe. I never wanted to hurt you."
Gabe nodded. "So, where do we go from here?"
"We start fresh. Without any ghosts."
Judson leaned in and captured his lover's soft lips. Gabe hesitated only briefly before leaning into the older man's arms. After the kiss, he pulled back slightly. "Are you sure? I don't want to be your second choice."
Judson pulled Gabe back into his arms. "You're my only choice and you have been since the first time I kissed you. Stefan was a part of my past that I never quite let go of. Now I've done that. I've gotten the closure I needed."
Sure, he regretted that Stefan had to die like that, but he wasn't sorry that they didn't work out. His relationship with Stefan had always been volatile even at the best of times. That wasn't what he wanted in a relationship anymore. He wanted the gentleness and security that he had with Gabe.
Gabe stared at him intently for a minute then moved in to kiss Judson. All thoughts of Stefan and the last month disappeared.
Mac stood in the doorway and smiled as she watched the two men wrapped in each other's arms. She had been afraid that Judson would let his past with Stefan ruin the future he was starting with Gabe. They would never know if Stefan ever sincerely regretted betraying Judson, but now it didn't seem that important. Stefan was dead and deserved to rest in peace. And Judson had moved past the betrayal and found Gabe.
The healing had started and the past would remain where it belonged.