Fear Of Heights
by Annie

"We're going to die."

Blake chuckled and took Ted's hands in his own. "We're not going to die. Trust me."

Ted looked at him with askance but summoned a weak smile. "I do trust you. It's just that when you said you wanted to share something, in your words, 'incredibly amazing' with me, this isn't what I had in mind. A romantic dinner, a private concert by my favorite tenor, a moonlit walk in the park - those are all 'incredibly amazing.' This is insanity."

"I know, I know," Blake said placatingly. "That's how I felt the first time I did it. I thought I was going to barf all over myself or piss my pants. It was scary as hell."

"And you still did it?" Ted said incredulously. "Why?"

"Because even though it scared the shit out of me, it also made me feel alive and free in a way that nothing ever had before. It gave me a way to get high without, well, getting high."

Blake's voice had a tinge of pride and Ted understood why. He knew all about Blake's struggle towards sobriety, knew how close to dying the younger man had come. "So this was the big secret? The one part of your therapy you wanted to keep to yourself?"

Blake nodded. "As you know, I had a therapist with some unusual methods. Not everything worked and it took months for the stuff that did work to really work, but he helped me in a way that I'd never been able to find in the usual rehab clinics and 12-step programs. This was something he tried during the worst of my withdrawal and it was probably the one thing that kept me from killing myself. I keep doing it to remind myself why I'm still alive and everything I have to live for. This is as close to dying as I want to get for a very, very long time. I want to share that feeling with you."

"Speaking of 'incredibly amazing'," Ted murmured appreciatively, and Blake blushed. They gazed at each other for a moment, then Ted cleared his throat. "I still think this is crazy, but okay. I'll do it." He took a deep breath and tried not to think about what he was getting himself into.

Blake grinned and kissed him fiercely, then motioned the attendant over to help them into the harnesses. He carefully explained what to expect to Ted and went over all the buckles to make sure they were secure, then stepped in close to Ted so they could be strapped together.

Once he was satisfied with the harnesses, he looked at Ted, who was looking back with utter trust in his eyes. Blake was so close he could see the gold flecks in Ted's brown eyes and feel the warmth of Ted's breath on his face. He smiled and Ted returned his smile. Blake kissed him again, lingering on Ted's soft lips and savoring the taste. When he leaned back to look at Ted once more, he whispered, "Ready?"

Ted nodded and whispered back, "I love you."

As they stepped off the platform and into the abyss, Blake clung tightly to Ted and said, "I love you."


Michael could feel the warmth of Brian's hands on the small of his back and over his eyes as Brian carefully guided him. "This better not be another surprise party," he laughed, "it's not even my birthday and besides, your parties have a way of turning into disasters."

He prattled on, teasing Brian with stories about past catastrophes, but Brian didn't break his silence. Finally, he pulled Michael to a stop and lifted his hands away from Michael's eyes. Michael blinked, the bright sunlight making his eyes water as he stared at what was in front of him.

It was a plane. A tiny single engine, white paint and silver steel gleaming. Michael looked around and saw that they were at a private airfield, the flat countryside dotted by concrete runways and hangars. He shot a bemused glance at Brian, who gazed back innocently.

"Okaaaaay," Michael drawled. "Why are we here?"

Brian leaned forward until his nose was almost touching Michael's and grinned. "We're going flying."

Michael blanched. He didn't like flying under the best of circumstances, when the skies were perfectly clear and he was strapped into an enormous 747 jet. The idea of being up in the air in that tin can - and wasn't that a bank of storm clouds on the horizon? - made him nauseous. He stepped back, shaking his head.

"No way. No! I am not getting in that thing. Besides, there are only two seats. What, are we going to take turns with the pilot?"

"No, we'll be flying together." Brian's grin only widened, showing his enjoyment of Michael's discomfiture.

"Then, how---no. Oh, no. Jesus Christ, Brian, what have you done?" Michael moaned.

Brian's face sobered. "You know how I kept disappearing every couple of days? You thought I was just taking guys home to fuck. I was here."

"You were here," Michael repeated.

"Yeah," Brian said. "Learning to fly."

"Why?" Michael asked, the only question that really mattered to him. He knew Brian was reckless and impulsive, but after the debacle on his thirtieth birthday, Michael didn't think Brian had a death wish. Doing something like this was too crazy, even for Brian. He shuddered at the idea of the risk Brian had taken every time he had a lesson.

Brian didn't meet Michael's demanding gaze. "I can forget when I'm up there. All the shit---it goes away."

Michael's look softened as understanding swept over him. Brian didn't need to explain anymore; Michael knew it had been a terrible year for Brian. He had lost Justin to another man, lost his mother only after just reconciling with her, lost Vic. Michael's throat tightened as he remembered hearing the news about the car accident from his mother. He and Brian had been at Woody's, snickering and rolling their eyes at Ted and Blake's frequent displays of affection and playing an impromptu game of quarters. It had only been a month since Brian's mother had died and that was the first night Michael had seen Brian smile again.

Then Debbie came in, tears sending streaks of makeup down her cheeks. It had been an accident, a tire blew and the car swerved into Vic, who was waiting at the corner to cross the street. He was killed instantly. In the split second before Michael went to hug his mother, he saw a terrifying blankness come over Brian's features.

Brian shut down that day and it had only been in the last month or two that he had started reacting again. He got angry, he got bitchy, he even smiled a time or two, but that smile never reached his eyes. Michael thought he just needed more time but maybe it wasn't just time he needed.

Michael grasped Brian's hand in his own and started pulling him towards the small plane, swallowing his fear under a wash of bravado and sympathy and hope that his friend was finally coming back to him. "I swear to god, Brian, if I die I'm haunting you for the rest of your fucking life."

Brian's grin returned as he replied sardonically, "Mikey, if you die, I will, too. We can haunt everyone else together." It was gone as soon as it came, but Michael could swear he saw a glint of laughter in Brian's eyes.


Being with Ethan was like the initial rush of being high - euphoric and more than just a little bit terrifying.

"I've been waiting for you, Justin Taylor," Ethan whispered into his skin, "I've been waiting for you all my life."

Coming from anyone else, Justin would have rolled his eyes, but Ethan said such things with a passion and sincerity that couldn't be mistaken for anything but truth. As Ethan spoke to him and stroked him with his sure, graceful hands and deliberately tasted every bend and crevice of his body, Justin felt swept under a tide of heady joy.

Ethan made love with a care and an openness that Justin was unfamiliar with, but wholly willing to learn. He learned the beauty of lying entangled and nude, only streams of golden sunlight clothing their bodies. He learned that the soles of his feet and the insides of his elbows were erogenous zones, and he learned that Ethan could be just as aroused by kissing him for hours as he could by being taken into Justin's mouth. He learned that Ethan made love with a lyrical rhythm based on a music only he could hear, and sometimes Justin imagined he could hear that music.

Ethan called it a heartsong. He said every pair of lovers have one and it only took practice and an open heart to hear it. Justin was willing to practice for as long as it took, and if his heart was any more open, it would swallow them both whole. He could hear their heartsong when he came and sensed it was only a matter of time before he'd hear it all the time, whether Ethan was close or not.

He learned what it was like to express love unambiguously and have it returned just as clearly. He learned the many ways in which to make love in public, from a gentle caress on the cheek as they stood in line for a movie to a longing look exchanged across a crowded room. He learned how to release the whispering ghosts of bitterness and regret and failure. He learned how to hold on to the delicate spirits of forgiveness and hope. He learned how to laugh and how to speak and how to be free.

He learned what it was like to jump off a cliff and soar in the sky and plunge that needle in his veins and embrace the sweet, terrifying adrenaline rush of euphoria. He had learned long ago how to love, but now he learned how to be in love.


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