Warnings: spoilers for the movie
Notes: Song lyrics. He Touched Me. This is from the Broadway show, Drat! the Cat, and was originally done by Barbra Streisand's then- husband, Elliot Gould. Thanks to Gail for the invaluable beta. And to Silk for all the years we've been friends. Keep working on the webcam, sis.
It Might Have Been
I sat staring out the window. Waning sunlight filtered through the blinds, leaving a barred pattern on the far wall.
I didn't see it. I didn't see anything.
I just sat there staring out the window.
Dad walked heavily into the nook. He hadn't knocked; there had never been the need before, and I guess he didn't see a need now. A small brown bag dangled from his white-knuckled grip.
After that first brief glance, I couldn't look at him. What I had done at my wedding, or rather *non*-wedding, was unforgivable. How could I bear to see the disappointment in his eyes?
When the minister asked if I took Emily Montgomery to be my wife, instead of simply replying, "I do," I'd said, "I'm gay!"
Before God and the entire congregation of the First Methodist Church of Greenleaf, I had come out.
The words stunned me, as much as everyone else. And then it all fell into place, and I heaved a massive sigh. All I felt was relief. "I'm gay."
Mom had tried to cover for me, rising to assure everyone that what I meant was that I was having a wonderful day. I smiled sadly at her and shook my head. It was too late for damage control.
For the first time in all the years I had known her, Emily had exploded. She knocked me down with a wicked right cross and raced to the car that was decorated with newly-wed paraphernalia, crepe paper, tin cans and great big bows.
I stood on the church's lawn and watched as she drove away. And when Peter Malloy had bounded up, congratulating me on outing myself, telling me he had terrific footage, I lost it and swung at him. And we wound up on the ground together. Only he had the sense to stay there while I staggered to my feet.
I stuffed my hands into the pockets of my tux and began to walk home.
My father shifted uncomfortably, bringing me back to the present.
"So, Howard," Dad said, and I had to face him. That was something he and Mom had always insisted on: if someone addressed you, you looked at them straight. No pun intended.
"Are you still gay?"
He sighed. "Are you going to have an operation?"
"What?" He managed to shock me. "Dad!"
"Well, I'm trying to understand!" He put the bag on the table. "Your mother thought you might not be eating, so she sent something. It's a piece of wedding cake."
"I'm sorry, Dad."
"Howard, you're my son. I love you." He pulled up a chair and dropped into it.
"Did I hurt Peter?"
"He promised not to sue; don't worry about that."
I laughed, although it wasn't a very happy sound. That was my Dad, totally clueless. He had no idea that Peter was gay. That Peter had given me my very first man to man kiss.
"He also told me he liked you, very much. And that he was proud of you."
My mouth dropped open, gaping like a hooked fish. I tried to respond to that, but all that came out were strangled sounds. Finally, "What?" I squeaked.
"I'm proud of you too, Howard. I told him that."
"It's nice to know I can still surprise my firstborn." He chuckled, but sobered quickly. "I think that all a parent wants is to see his children happy. That's all your mother and I want, son."
I could feel the burning at the back of my eyes. "Thanks, Dad."
"Will we see you tomorrow, at graduation?"
How could I tell him that shortly after the wedding that *wasn't*, Tom Halliwell had called me up, and fired me. "I...don't know Dad."
"Howard, you taught those kids. If you don't show up, what are they going to think?"
I turned my head, and he didn't see the single tear that slid down my cheek.
His chair scraped as he got to his feet. He squeezed my shoulder. "I've got to get back. Your mother's waiting for me. You just decide for yourself the best thing to do. I'll...we'll love you no matter what."
"Even Walter?" My brother wasn't the sharpest tool in the shed, but even growing up in my shadow, he had never shown any resentment, always looked up to me as his older brother. And I knew I would miss that if he were no longer comfortable around me, if he wanted to have nothing to do with me.
"Yeah, Howard. Even Walter!"
I nodded and listened as he crossed the floor to the door. He paused. "That Barbra Streisand, did she do something to you?" He mistook the sound I made for a laugh. "Okay, okay, I'm going!"
The door closed quietly behind him.
I was dreaming. I *knew* I was dreaming. The only time Peter came to me was in my dreams.
Even before he kissed me.
The house was dark, and I sat at that table, my head pillowed on my arms. My face was still wet.
A sound disturbed the oppressive silence and had me raising my head with a jerk. A figure was framed in the doorway, and I wondered how long he had been standing there.
"Your Dad said I would find you here." Peter said, feeling blindly for the light switch.
"No, don't!" I ordered, turning away and surreptitiously drying my cheeks with my palms. Moonlight dappled the room and made it safe enough for me to face him.
He spoke before I could. "I'm sorry, Howard."
I shuddered. "What are you doing here, Peter?"
"I was worried about you."
"You didn't have to be; I'm fine. Thanks for coming, and don't let the door hit you in the ass on the way out."
"Howard, we need to talk."
"About what? The fact that I destroyed Emily's life? That I've humiliated my parents? That I'll never work in this town again?" The last I said so softly he didn't hear me.
"Wallowing in self-pity isn't going to help!" And suddenly Peter was so close to me I could smell his aftershave, and I realized this was no dream. This was honest-to-God happening! He dragged me to my feet and shook me. "You *saved* Emily's life! Think what would have happened if you had gone through with the marriage! Sooner or later you wouldn't have been able to deny your true nature, and think how Emily would have felt then!"
I tried to back away from him, but the table blocked my escape. "You bastard! I've lived all these years not knowing I was gay! I could very happily have lived the rest of my life without knowing that!"
"Would you have been happy, Howard?" he probed.
"*Yes*!" I shouted at him. "I would have gotten down on my knees every day and thanked God! At least then, I'd still be a teacher!" I clapped my hand over my mouth, appalled that I had inadvertently revealed what was causing me the most heartache.
"What are you talking about? You'll always be a teacher!"
"No," I said hoarsely. "Not any more."
"That sanctimonious prig, Halliwell, fired you?" Peter was honestly shocked. Well of course. He lived in Los Angeles, where things of this nature were accepted as a matter of course.
Wearily I shook my head. "It was the decision of the school board. They felt it was a matter of influence."
"Oh, Howard! Those fucking idiots! I'm so sorry!" He put his arms around me and dragged me up against his body.
For the first time since I had reached my teens, I was in an embrace that somehow felt... *right*.
Peter was maybe an inch or so taller, and his shoulder was comfortably close. I leaned my head on it, rubbing my cheek against his suit jacket.
His hands wound in my hair, carding through the strands, leaving it in disarray. When Emily had done that, I'd felt untidy, and I'd chided her on that. But now, I was hot, as if the nerves in my scalp were directly connected to my groin. He insinuated his knee between my legs, and shamelessly, I rubbed myself against his thigh.
"Peter," I groaned. "Take me to bed."
"I thought you'd never ask!"
I was shaking with nerves. I had gotten a glimpse of Peter's cock as he skinned out of his trousers.
"Peter, I don't think this is a good idea!"
"Howard, this is the best idea either of us has ever had!" He saw where my eyes were fastened, and he grinned. "I'm flattered, Howard, but I'm only average."
"Oh Jesus, this is never going to work!"
Peter came to me and put his arms around me. "Trust me, babe. It will work fine. All we need is some lube."
"Lube? Oh, you mean lubricant! Um, I don't have any. I'm sorry, I guess we'll just have to do this some other time." My sentences were running one into the other.
Peter's warm lips grazed over my cheek to my mouth. "We're going to do this tonight, babe. You like to cook, don't you?"
I nodded. Of course I liked to cook. What kind of question was that?
"You have olive oil in the house?"
"Extra *virgin* olive oil!" I said huffily.
Peter's fingers stroked the curve of my throat to my adam's apple. "That will do fine, babe. And it's just so appropriate, isn't it? Go on down to the kitchen and get it."
I kept an eye on him, sure he was going to jump on me before I could get to the door. But I made it safely out of the room.
"And Howard, hurry it up, would you?" Peter called after me.
I could do this. I was going to do this. After all, how difficult could it be? I reached into the pantry and took out the bottle of olive oil. It nearly slipped out of my hands.
Okay. Deep breaths. Deep breaths.
And then I heard it.
"He touched me.
"He put his hand near mine... and then he touched me."
Barbra Streisand. Peter had found my CD collection.
And suddenly it the hows and whys didn't matter.
He was upstairs, waiting for me.