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Photographs And Memories

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Photographs And Memories
By Joanne Collins

Damn you, Harry. Damn you.

How could you do that?

Save the world and leave me so damned confused that I don't know what end is up any more.

That is a goddamned typical Harry Stamper move.

Okay, maybe not the saving the world part in and of itself, although I would've bet damn good money that you would do it. You've always been able to do that in my eyes, though. No, leaving me so goddamn confused that I don't know what I feel any more. So confused that my feelings are all numb.

My feelings around you have never been numb, that's for sure.

The first feeling I ever felt around you was pain, with a big dose of sadness mixed in. How else is a ten-year-old kid supposed to feel about the man who tells him that his father's dead? I mean, my mom had died so many years before that I could hardly remember her, but you knew how I was with my dad. I guess that's why you promised him that you'd take care of me.

Damn, I had a chip on my shoulder the size of Gibraltar then, didn't I? I wasn't about to let Katherine get close to me, and I dismissed Grace as an 'ewwwwwww' girl, who was only just in school anyway. Amazing how your opinions can change over the years, isn't it?

Growing up, you were always there. No matter what was happening, you were there. When Kate left, you hid your pain and listened to Grace and me. Yeah, Kate got to me. That's why it hurt so damned much when she left. And not a word from that day to this, was there? I wondered why...I wondered until a couple of days ago. You didn't want me to go through it again, did you? And you didn't want Grace to go through it at all. Better to let us think she walked out, rather than that she went to a santarium and died. All those times you disappeared over the next couple of were seeing her, making sure she wasn't alone either, weren't you? And that secret is mine, and I think Chick's, to keep now. He didn't tell me that he knew, but he knew what I'd find in those papers, I'm sure of it. I know one thing, Grace is never going to find out from me. This secret is the last thing that we will share.

We shared a lot over the years, didn't we, Harry? I let you in, too. How could I not? I needed someone to talk to. Someone who would understand. I knew you'd promised my dad that you'd look out for me, but you did so much more than that. So much more...

All the sports we watched. You teaching me to play golf...god, that was a painfully funny time. All those 'guy' things. The things a father does with his son. And you even talked to me about sex and sexuality. I thought it was wrong when I began having feelings for guys as well as girls, but you told me that love is never wrong. I'm so damned grateful for that, Harry. It helped me feel a lot better when I started having those feelings for *you*.

I don't even know when they started. I think in a way, when I started having feelings for guys, it was all wrapped up in the feelings I didn't know were about you. But I didn't know for a long time that they were about you. I thought it was wanting to know what the other side was like, curiosity. That's what I thought it was for a long time.

There were a few experiments that arose out of that curiosity in high school, but none of that ever went further than kissing. In college I went further, but that was when I wasn't *guys* I wanted. It was you. I was pretty shocked when I realised it, even talked to one of the psychology profs in case it was some kind of transferring of the feelings I'd always had for you. I'm still not sure if I wanted to hear that that was all it was or not. He told me that if I'd had feelings for you before then, it might have been, what did he call it, transference, but as I was realising it now, it probably (he had to say that, apparently it's a cya thing) was real.

So there I was, nineteen and in love for the first time. With the man who had raised me. I had no idea what I would do about it, but I felt better knowing. I decided to keep my mind on studying for a while. I got a reputation as a brain, if you can believe that, because I'd stopped dating. There were no girls that interested me, and the guys couldn't hold a candle to you, so I just didn't...bother.

September of my junior year rolled around, and with it my twentieth birthday. I had planned an exciting day of studying, dinner at a nice restaurant alone, and a movie, alone. It was about the most social life I'd *had* in the last few months. Then I got home from the library and you were waiting in the lobby of my building. When I saw you there, smiling...I felt a rush of feelings that I didn't know how to deal with, so I pushed them down and smiled back. I'd half-suspected you of bringing Rockhound and Chick along, and I have to say, I was surprised when you said that you were alone.

That night was incredible, Harry. Just to sit and talk with you over good steaks and beer. It might sound like it was a simple, everyday thing, but we talked about stuff we'd never been able to talk about before, like how *you* felt when my dad died, and how you felt when Kate 'walked out'. You never lied to me about that, I realise now, you just chose your words very carefully.

And I talked to you about why I wasn't dating. Not mentioning you by name then, but I said that I knew what I was looking for, and that it wasn't a quick night with some girl or guy whose name I probably wouldn't remember the next day. You liked that I felt that way, said it had taken you a hell of a lot longer to figure that out, and you even told me a little about your own misspent youth.

I was kind of shocked when you admitted to me that you'd been with a few guys in your time. I'm not quite sure why, considering how you'd reacted when I'd told you about my confused feelings, but I was. I think it's because I never even thought you could feel the same way about guys as I do. Or maybe it was because I felt safer thinking of you as unattainable. It was okay for me to want you as badly as I did, because I could never have you.

I couldn't do anything but offer my couch to you that night. You'd made some noises about a hotel, but I knew that I couldn't do that to you. You were my family, as well as the man I loved, and I'd never let family stay in a hotel.

We ended up renting a couple of Bogart movies, The Big Sleep and Key Largo, because you said that I needed to start my education after I confessed that I'd never seen them. You wanted to know what the heck they taught us about in Film Studies. I made a huge batch of popcorn and we sat on the couch and enjoyed. It was one of the best nights I've spent in my life, watching Bogie and Bacall, eating popcorn and just being with you.

Then we reached into the popcorn bowl at the same time, and our hands touched. I felt something I'd never felt before, a spark, I guess you'd call it, and I looked at you. That was when I realised that I wasn't the only one who'd felt it. God, Harry, the way you looked at me. Shock and lust and love all wrapped up together, and deep in your eyes, the knowledge of what we were about to do.

We knew it then, didn't we? We knew we were going to make love the second we touched each other and felt it. I don't know why that touch of our hands felt so much more intimate than the hug we'd shared earlier...yes I do. The hug wasn't sexual, it was familial. And the touch wasn't.

You kissed me then, very lightly and tentatively, your lips just meeting mine. You were taking it slowly, not wanting to scare me or do something I didn't want. I knew that somehow, that if I wanted you to, you'd stop, no questions asked, and we'd go back to how we were. But I didn't want to stop.

I broke the kiss, light as it was I could feel it through my entire body, and stood up. I flicked the television off and held out a hand.

"Are you sure?" you asked, hoarsely.

I nodded, unable to speak just then, and you got up, taking my hand. You let me lead you into my bedroom, and undress you. I touched you everywhere, tasting your skin, feeling you move under me. Then you did the same. I've never felt like that before, Harry, it all felt new and fresh, like I'd never been touched at all. And I hadn't, not like you touched me. Not with love. It hadn't been about love before, just relief, and maybe some affection, if that.

You showed me love and trust and desire and passion when you took me, and when I took you, the sense of connection was amazing. Feeling your heat, your touch, your breath, the slickness of sweat on both our bodies, then the overwhelming feeling of complete connection when we came.

Falling asleep wrapped so tightly around each other that I don't think I knew where I ended and you began.

I woke first the next morning, and I wondered, for a second, if there would be regrets from you. I steeled myself to accept the possibility, because I knew it was there. I never did tell you about the sigh of relief that turned to a cry of passion that I let out when you leaned over and kissed me the second you opened your eyes, and then we made love again.

I didn't expect it to last beyond the couple of days I knew were all that you could stand to be away from the crew. I couldn't ask, though, because I wanted to enjoy the time we had for as long as I could, to pretend it was never going to end.

Even when you left the next night, I couldn't ask. I just kissed you and said that I'd miss you. You said that you'd miss me too, and that you'd see me soon. I didn't ask how soon, or what we would be to each other...I just couldn't say the words.

It was soon. Three weeks later, it was almost exactly the same. I came home to find you waiting in my lobby again. And just like before you hugged me. Only this time I felt your hardness between us and I knew that I was going to have what I wanted most in the world one more time.

It wasn't one more time. You came back again, and again. For the rest of my college years, you came to me every few weeks and we'd be together. We'd talk, but never about 'us'. Not in depth. I wanted to ask if this was permanent, or what, but I couldn't. I could never say the things that I needed to say the most to you, Harry, in case they were what ended us.

Then I graduated, and we celebrated in our own way. It was hot and sweet and wild like always, but after we finished...I knew something had changed.

I knew I was going to be on your crew, we'd already decided that, back when I was in high school, and I had wondered if it would change us, but, like everything else, I didn't ask. I couldn't. I was prepared for the possibility, of course. I always felt that it was all too good to last, to ever be more than it was, that each time would be the last. This time, though, it felt like it *was* the last time.

"You know we can't keep doing this," you said, fighting tears. I could see them in your eyes, and I had to blink back some of my own.

"I know," I replied, almost too softly to be heard.

"Not and be on the same crew. You have to be able to give your life for anyone on the crew...but not get so close that you can't be objective if something happens. And it can, AJ, you know it as well as I do."

I did. It was that knowledge that had been a large part of why I'd never pushed anything with you, that and my own inability to speak up about it all.

"So...this is it?"

"It has to be," you replied.

I nodded, accepting the inevitable. And because I knew I would never get another chance, I said the words I'd been avoiding, again out of self-preservation.

"I love you."

You didn't answer right away, you just held me closer, and a few minutes later, I heard your whisper against the back of my neck.

"I love you too."

It was an ending, but we took our chance to be together one last time.

It was bittersweet, I could taste the salt of your tears on your cheeks, feel mine dripping onto you, feel you clutching at me, as if when we let go we would stop existing.

Maybe that was right. It was for me for a long time. I just stopped doing anything but working on the rig for a long time.

Until Grace came back from college.

If I'd tried to fight things with you, I waged a battle against things with Grace.

Please, the daughter of the only other person I'd ever loved? Even I knew that if it wasn't real, I was setting *all* of us up for something that we'd never recover from.

But I didn't pursue her. She pursued me, until I couldn't say no any longer. Truth be told, by that point, I didn't want to. I knew it was *Grace* I wanted and not some sick substitution for you.

Still, I wouldn't let her tell you. I didn't want to, not right away, and it got easier to keep it a secret the longer it went on as one. It was easier to just keep it from everyone.

Then you found us that morning that the Japanese investors came. And I tried to explain, but you were crazy. I couldn't tell anyone the real reason, but I knew...I saw the jealousy in your eyes, the fact that you still wanted me as much as I wanted you. Yes, I love Grace, I'd never have let things start with her if I didn't, I just happen to love you too. I never stopped.

I couldn't stay after that. Not loving both of you. I'd pushed the feelings for you aside, stamped them down, but it couldn't work forever. At least when I was away from your crew, I could concentrate on Grace and me, or so I thought.

A couple days later, after I'd started the first drilling for my company, you came to me. For one second...I thought you were going to tell me that you loved me and wanted me. I honestly don't know what my answer would have been at that point, because I could never hurt Grace. But if you had given us one more chance...I couldn't have not taken it. I'm very glad that I never had to make the choice between you. I don't think I could have.

That was when you told me about the asteroid. I thought you were bullshitting me at first. I mean, who expects that?

But you weren't. And we went off and trained to be astronauts. God, what a joke that was, really. I mean, just because as a kid I wanted to be Captain Kirk that doesn't mean that I was ready for the real thing.

Going up in space was the most goddamned terrifying prospect I'd ever faced. I tried to hide it with humour, and singing to Grace. God, John Denver...I took Grace to a concert of his for our first date. I never told her why I teared up when he did Annie's Song, though. That was always the song I associated with you. You filled all of my senses when we were together. But for Grace and I, it was Leaving On A Jet Plane, and I sang that for her. In my heart, though, I could hear Annie's Song.

I don't think any of us really expected to come back. And when we realised that we'd have to leave someone...god. I knew drawing straws was the fairest way to go about it...but I couldn't believe it when I drew the short straw. Like Rockhound said, I was the only one with something lasting to go back for. I said that Chick had his son, and I caught the look of gratitude in his eyes for that.

I was glad when you wanted to take me down...thought I might even get up the nerve to say something, or kiss you goodbye. What would it matter now? I wish I had. To taste you that one last time. Still, I can't regret what wasn't meant to be.

I had no idea that you'd planned to do it instead of me. I wanted to open the doors and yell at you for doing it, but I knew why. You wanted me to live, to have children with Grace. Because, despite everything, you still loved me as much as I love you. So, knowing why, all I could do was to say the words. I told you I loved you for the last time, gripping your mission patch as tightly as my fingers would let me.

Grace told me later about your last conversation. I'm glad you got to tell her goodbye.

When the bomb went off, I let out an anguished cry. To know that you weren't going to be there any more...that hit me harder than I thought it would.

Then we were back, and Grace was crying and holding me, and I knew why you'd done it, it hit me even harder that you'd sacrificed yourself...sacrificed *us* for the love of your daughter and the love we shared.

And it was right. I knew that then. And I asked Grace to marry me again. Not that I hadn't meant it the first time, of course, but I needed to ask her again, now I knew that you wanted it for me.

Chick's going to walk her down the aisle. It's right, he's the closest thing she has to a father now, and you'd want it this way.

The others are standing up for us. Rockhound agreed to be my best man.

There's a few more minutes, but the music just started.

I'll take care of Grace for you. I love her.

But there will always be a part of me that loves you, Harry. And I'll never forget what we were to each other.

I love you.

I stand at the end of the aisle, and all I can see is your picture, remembering our love. Then I see Grace, beautiful in white lace.

And I move down the aisle to my future with Grace.


FINAL NOTE: This story was inspired by Annie's Song by John Denver, and by the Savage Garden song, The Lover After Me.

Here are the lyrics:

Annie's Song
by John Denver

You fill up my senses
Like a night in a forest
Like the mountains in springtime
Like a walk in the rain
Like a storm in the desert
Like a sleepy blue ocean
You fill up my senses
Come fill me again
Come let me love you
Let me give my life to you
Let me drown in your laughter
Let me die in your arms
Let me lay down beside you
Let me always be with you
Come let me love you
Come love me again
You fill up my senses
Like a night in a forest
Like the mountains in springtime
Like a walk in the rain
Like a storm in the desert
Like a sleepy blue ocean
You fill up my senses
Come fill me again



"The Lover After Me"
by Savage Garden

Here I go again I promised myself I wouldn't think of you today
It's been seven months and counting
You've moved on
I still feel exactly the same
It's just that everywhere I go all the buildings know your name
Like photographs and memories of love
Steel and granite reminders
The city calls your name and I can't move on
Ever since you've been gone
The lights go out the same
The only difference is
You call another name
To your love
To your lover now
To your love
The lover after me
Am I all alone in the universe?
There's no love on these streets
I have given mine away to a world that didn't want it anyway
So this is my new freedom
It's funny
I don't remember being chained
But nothing seems to make sense anymore
Without you I'm always twenty minutes late
Ever since you've been gone
The lights go out the same
The only difference is
You call another name
To your love
To your lover now
To your love
The lover after me
And time goes by so slowly
The nights are cold and lonely
I shouldn't be holding on
But I'm still holding on for you
Here I go again
I promised myself I wouldn't think of you today
But I'm standing at your doorway
I'm calling out your name because I can't move on