Title: Stay. Part 4/6
Artist: michira_70 Thank you dear, for this wonderful art! You’re so loved.
Wordcount: 16.930 This chapter: 3552
Pairing: Tommy Ratliff/OMC Trent
Type: AU, werewolf. Friendship with a twist.
Disclaimer: it’s a werewolf fic so I’m not even gonna bother. Trent is however mine ;)
Warnings: Minor character death. Angst.
Beta: My wonderful friend thrace_adams who makes my writing so much better. Love you, you wonderful woman! All remaining mistakes are mine.
A/N: This story is a timestamp to my werewolf fic A Primal Right which can be found here on LJ and here on AO3. It takes place before A Primal Right and if you’re the happily ever after kinda person I recommend you read or re-read it after reading this fic ;)
Summary: When Trent receives a phone call from his alpha Dia, asking him to come home to accept and welcome the mate Tommy imprinted with, he’s forced to face the painful truth that Tommy is never going to love him back the way he wants him to. Before going home he reflects back on his history with Tommy and the events that led to this point.
When Tommy was twelve he discovered a passion for music, playing it to be precise. He got an old but good guitar from one of the pack members and with a one track mind he practiced. Tommy became good, like, really fucking amazingly good! He taught himself and I think we all knew being a musician was his true calling. He worshipped that guitar; and I’m positive he still has it.
The year we turned twenty, I more than once I caught him drooling over a pearly white Fender in the window of the local music store. Being me, I started saving money up for that guitar. The plan was to hand it over on his birthday. So that’s why I was taking a job bussing tables and doing dishes in a crappy dinner. Really fucking epic way to try to get over a guy, but yeah, that’s what I did.
You should have seen Tommy’s face the first time I told him I wasn’t able to go to the movies with him because I had to go to work. First surprise and then suspicion crept over his face.
“Are you dating someone?” He actually asked that. But more importantly he looked hurt at the thought. “No. I’m working. I’m saving up for something valuable.”
His gorgeous brown eyes lit up and grew huge. “What?”
“It’ll be a surprise.”
He offered me a certain look of mischief. “I could make you tell me.”
I snorted. “But you won’t. We both know that.”
Tommy put on an adorable pout. “Then tell me where you’re working.”
I did and he beamed back at me. “That is kinda awesome. I can totally get away with seeing you while you work. I just need to order a cup of coffee.” he laughed and instantly I regretted telling him.
And he did. Buy coffee, and a lot of it. As usual he charmed everyone around him and quickly became a regular. And it wasn’t like he asked for their attention, they just gave it to him willingly, just like me. Sometimes he brought his guitar, especially when he was asked. Other times he just sat at the counter reading something, barely looking up, just answering my light touches whenever I brushed by him with a knowing and fond smile. He really didn’t make the whole getting over him easy.
After a while I realized people, strangers mostly, thought we were boyfriends. I blame our wolves for that and the overly affectionate ways we all have. It was like getting a bucket of ice water poured over my head the first time someone commented on it. I was left gasping and speechless, until my brain caught up with me. It’s rather difficult hearing what you want the most in life is what people think you already have. It certainly doesn’t make you want it less, that’s for sure.
“No, no, no.” I stuttered when I found my ability to speak again. Of course Tommy had heard the comment and decided to throw in his two cents. “Aww baby, are you ashamed of me?” he said and made kissy sounds.
I very appropriately flipped him off. “Fuck you.”
I turned to the customer who had asked and explained. “He’s my best friend. Honestly. Though right now I can’t think of why.”
“You love me, that’s why.” Tommy stated as if there were no other possibilities and went back to reading.
I hurried back to the kitchen to have myself a private and quiet meltdown.
Next time someone mentioned it, it was constructed as a carefully measured question. Brown eyes, much darker than Tommy’s, were darting back and forth between me and Tommy who was pretending to be lost in a Stephen King book.
His name was Martin and he'd been visiting the diner daily over the past few weeks. It was the first time he'd addressed me directly and it took all of about three seconds even without wolf instincts to know why he was interested in knowing that. I shot Tommy a quick glance and as suspected his attention wasn’t completely on King. His eyes were still glued to the book but the secretive little smile was not because of what he read. Shut up. I said to Tommy.
Smiling at Martin, I shook my head at the same time Tommy used his own telepathy and pushed an amused snicker into my mind.
Didn’t say a word, didn’t even think in words. I might be guilty of thinking in images though.
Every time I thought I knew what to expect from him he did something like that. Tommy, goddamn you. Will you please shut the fuck up?! I looked at him innocently and said to Martin. “Just a friend.”
He’s pretty. Maybe he’s the one that will finally chase that haunted expression you get in your eyes sometimes away.
I frowned, confused by what he meant by that. Haunted expression?! He thinks we’re lovers.
We’d look good together. Tommy said matter of factly. Then he took a napkin and put it between the pages in his book and closed it. “Oh will you look at the time, I think I need to find a bed to sleep in. If you need me, I’ll be at Mia’s.”
I looked at him with shock. That was a first.
Going home, but now loverboy doesn’t think we’re together. Enjoy. He tossed a carefree wave my way and strolled out the door, doorbell chiming behind him.
Martin was pretty and throughout the six months we actually dated, I tried hard to love him. I really did.
I think Tommy tried his best to like him too, maybe he even did. But whenever I tried to put them in the same room for more than half an hour Tommy begged off so it was hard to tell. I had the distinct feeling he was disguising his scent too. His excuses for leaving were always so fucking legit that I couldn’t bitch and moan about it and Martin always seemed to bloom when Tommy left the room. Still it had hurt.
It hurt because I knew the reasons he gave like time with Mia or his dad weren't the only ones. I could feel his unhappiness even from miles away and I didn't understand it. The only time things seemed okay was when we were all out as a group, and on more than one of those occasions Tommy left with some cute girl before the night ended. Those nights left me empty and feeling like the only reason he went with us was to find something I couldn't give him.
At one point I became so frustrated that I asked Mike what the hell he thought Tommy’s problem was. I had never done anything like that before.
He shot me a flat glare and put his coffee mug down with a bit too much force. “You, Trent, are neither dumb nor blind so how can you even ask that?”
“He’s hurting, he’s being replaced by Martin and that makes his wolf jealous. You should appreciate his effort to not make it an issue.”
“Jealous? Why? He’s still my best friend and believe me! He does his share of fucking around.” I smacked a hand over my mouth horrified I'd just said that. I knew Tommy very deliberately kept his sex life under the radar, had a damn good reason to do it too, and there I was letting my mouth run.
But the way Mike looked at me made it became obvious that he knew too and he was distinctly displeased that I'd let that slip out. The faint smell of disappointment hit my senses and I looked away feeling ashamed.
“I didn’t say his jealousy had anything to do with fucking. There's more than one way to be jealous! You’re the one he always goes to. His best friend, the one he loves completely and without boundaries and now he has to share. Don’t forget he’s an alpha, it’s in his genes to be a possessive fucker.”
“He practically pushed us together. Possessive my ass.”
Mike raised a brow, looking at me blankly. “Because he knows you two can’t continue to be this dependent on each other without letting others into your life. That doesn’t mean that it’s easy to ignore his wolf's urge to touch you, curl around you the way you two have always done. The dude lives on cuddles and since Martin is human and not all that sure of himself, Tommy is doing everything to censor himself around you.”
“I never asked him to censor himself. I just want to spend time with him.”
“Perhaps not. But Tommy will never ever stand in the way of your happiness and he’s doing what he can to give you space. That means he hurts, his wolf hurts, just as you did when he met Kimberly and you realized you had to do the same. He’s dealing, you should too.” Mike pushed his chair back, stood and turned his back on me, clearly done with my whining.
I wasn’t finished though. “All I ask is that he spend a little bit of his time with me. I fucking want him to.”
“I know. Trust me, we all know, except for Tommy, because he’s a master in ignoring the obvious.”
I swallowed, thinking that maybe Mike had figured out my feelings for Tommy but Mike sighed and his voice took on an even more patient tone. “He does want to spend time with you, but your boyfriend doesn’t appreciate that and you know what? This is the downside of you and Tommy always being so close. The thing is you grow up and new people enter your life and you have to adjust.”
“I don’t like this.” I answered petulantly.
Mike patted me on the back. “Neither does he, but he’s doing the right, the mature thing.” And then he left me to my own thoughts.
It was no surprise that my relationship didn't last more than six months. He wasn’t Tommy and I needed my friend back, and that was that.
So I spent the next three years pining for someone who didn’t want me. I know it sounds ridiculous but you need to know that despite that, I was happy. I think in many ways, I was happier in my life than Tommy. Not that he seemed unhappy or discontent but his life pretty much consisted of chores to prepare him for what was expected of him later. I guess the only thing he did for himself was playing his music.
Me, I didn’t think I was missing out on anything. After things ended with Martin, my friendship with Tommy quickly went back to what it was before. The one major thing that changed was that I pretty much resolved to do the same thing as Tommy, casual hook ups, when sexual tension became too much. It was the perfect solution. Or so I thought.
I knew for a fact that Tommy noticed this. He would sometimes send me this look of confusion and worry when I slipped out the door with someone pretty. And every time I worried about him figuring out why and calling me on it.
One day he did. He totally surprised the fuck out of me and to be honest I think that was his intention. He knew it would be the only way to get me to talk without forcing me with the demand of his alpha’s tone.
We were watching some movie I can’t even remember now, snuggling together on his bed, when he suddenly turned and sat up to face me. He pulled his knees up and put his arms around them before resting his chin in the tiny gap between them. For the longest time he didn’t say anything, was just looking at me as if he was trying to pry open my brain with a mental crowbar.
I didn’t ask him anything. I let him look, knowing whatever was on his mind he would spill it out when he was ready and not one minute sooner.
Finally, he asked, “Can I ask you something?”
He blinked at my teasing tone, and it became painfully obvious that he wasn't in a playful mood. A pang of worry ran through me. Whatever was brewing inside his head was serious.
“You don’t have to answer if you don’t want to.”
“Tommy, just ask.” I said, knowing there wasn’t much I would deny him, if anything at all.
“Okay…” he said softly and looked away for a second. He was biting a thumb nail when he met my gaze again. “I don’t know where to start,” He admitted slowly.
“The beginning?” that was supposed to get a ‘smartass’ or something like that out of him to lighten the mood but instead he nodded his head.
“Yeah, maybe. Do you remember when we were fourteen and carefree?”
“I suppose.” I answered, thinking that’s when things started to get complicated for me.
“I think we were about that age when I put words on my feelings for you for the first time.”
The memory of that day crashed through me and I could feel a huge smile growing on my face. “Yeah, after tumbling through the forest in the best way possible. It was a good day.”
He smiled back but there was something anxious about it. “I need you to know I still feel like that. No matter what, you’ll always be my best friend.”
“I know… go on.” I said with the ‘please don’t let this be about me loving you’ thought on repeat like a fucking mantra in my head.
“God, this is hard. I’ve been thinking about this for such a long time and I still don’t know…” He paused again, finding his words. “When Kimberly came to visit-”
“Yeah?” I urged, trying to cover up how much he was freaking me out because I was pretty sure what was coming next. My stomach was tied up in painful knots.
“There was something about the way you were that month… I guess that was the first time I started to wonder but I let it go, didn’t want to think too deeply about it… The way you reacted when you found me after one of our…”
“Fucks?” I was going for humor, but I missed by a mile and even I cringed at the hard tone in my voice.
Tommy grimaced. “Why don’t you have a boyfriend?”
“Don’t want one. I have everything I need.”
He looked at me for what felt like forever. Then he sighed. “Alright. But then explain the numerous hook ups.”
I shrugged. “It’s sex. It's really not that deep and what’s with the double standards? You do the same.”
He nodded. “Because I have to. Don’t think I don’t want to have a girlfriend, someone to connect with but I can’t be in a relationship. I am Mia’s.”
I swallowed, the impact of those words leaving my mouth dry and my heart breaking. “In three years, yes but not now.”
He snorted. “I’m not about to piss all over her or her Dad by openly bringing a girl into my pack. But tell me why you don’t want a boyfriend?”
I wasn’t going to tell him anything if he didn’t flat out ask. Stupidly, I was still clinging to the tiny hope that he didn’t know anything. “Like I said, I’ve got what I need. Maybe I’m just not the ‘couple’ kind of guy?!”
“Bullshit and you know it. I might read too much into this. God, I hope so but… is it because of me?”
“What?” I shrieked, while my mind was going blank, of course he would ask the one question I didn't want him to ask.
Without bothering to hide it he studied my face and I knew he was trying to read my expression and therefore figure out what I was thinking. “Ever since Martin and with the one night stands… I have this feeling that… did it end because of me?”
“You did nothing wrong.”
“If you say so…” he reached out a hand and took one of mine in his. His thumb rubbed over my knuckles in a gentle caress. “But Trent, I need you to be honest with me now. Are you in love with me?”
“I’ve always loved you, you know that. I worship the ground you walk on.”
He squeezed my hand and his voice had just a hint of the alpha he’s destined to become in his tone. “Are you?”
“Maybe.” I looked away, afraid to see what would be in his eyes.
“So that’s a yes?” he squeezed my hand, silently begging me to give him a straight answer.
“Yes.” I whispered, not daring to meet his eyes.
“I’m sorry.” He said softly. “Tell me what to do to make you feel better. Anything.”
The complete lack of judgment in his voice made me look at him. His eyes shone with understanding and empathy. There was none of the pity or resentment I had feared so much. I should have known that.
“Love me?” I asked with hope.
“You know I do. Nothing is changing that.” He offered me a tender smile and moved so he could give me a tight hug.
With his arms around my neck and his warm breath tickling my skin I let go of every last bit of my pride. “Fall in love with me?”
He released his hold on me and leaned back in favor of looking at me. “I can’t do that. First of all because I’m straight-”
“Couldn’t we try?” I begged, crawling over the bed to reach him. “I mean if we tried then maybe you’d… like it and-We’re perfect together in any other sense. And you once said you wished it was me and not her you were promised to.”
He met me halfway cradling my face. “True, but I didn’t know you felt like this when I said it.”
“So you don’t, want to at least try? Does the thought of us together bother you that much?”
He looked hurt and he really must have been because he didn’t even bother trying to hide it. “No Trent, we’d look hot together but listen, straightness aside… even if I thought I could fall in love with you I still wouldn’t want to… it would cause too much heartbreak when Mia and I tie the knot in three years. For both of us.”
“But if it worked couldn’t we talk to the council, free you of that pact with Mia?” I was grasping at straws and I didn’t even care how desperate I sounded.
“It wouldn’t matter how much I was in love with you if we’re not imprinted and we’re not. Do you really see my Dad, Mia’s or the council approve of breaking the pact? Two packs of wolves are counting on me and Mia to make change. You know this Trent. You know how important this is.”
I did know that. “Yeah.”
He let go of my face and said sadly, “There’s a lot of reasons it wouldn’t work. I can’t be anything more than your best friend and I need to know what I can do to make things better for you. Do you need me to hold back and be less affectionate? I mean, I know my wolf is a possessive fucker but I’ll try to rein him in if that’s what you need.”
I didn’t even think about that before answering. “I need you—us, to stay the same.”
“I need you, my wolf need yours. It’d kill him if you suddenly withdrew from us because of this. I can handle it, I have been for a while, so if this is it, then I want what I have. It wasn’t me who brought this up.” I looked at him hoping that he would understand.
“Just… let me know if something changes okay? If it becomes too much, please be honest with me.”
I promised him that despite knowing that I would never tell Tommy anything unless it was because I fell out of love with him.
Then a month later Mia became alpha and Tommy spent so many hours in her pack right after that he was too tired to think about how to look out for me. It seemed like he was too tired for anything honestly. It was hard not to notice he didn’t go out with our friends and more importantly that he didn’t seem to sneak off with any random girls anymore. I was perfectly happy with that knowledge. And I bathed in the little attention he had time to throw my way and the fact that he seemed to cherish our limited time together just as much as me. Over the next six months I stupidly chose to ignore the way Tommy had emphasized ‘best friend’. Instead I clung to the hope that one day he’d see what was right in front of him.