Saturday, November 19, 2016
It All Started with Once Upon a Time
It All Started with Once Upon a Time
By Prairie Girl
Once upon a time…that’s the way the most fairy tales begin. Throughout the ages, once anyone heard those four words they knew what was coming, a happy ending…right? But what is it that they all seem to conveniently forget? Can’t think of anything? That’s all right. It’s really not something that most folks think of when they think of a fairy tale. But what they all seem to forget is the terror, or the pain, or the grief, or the frustration that always seems to stuff up the middle of such tales. And this is one such tale…
Once upon a time there was a happy-go-lucky young man named Caiden Isaiah Ames. He grew up in a little house in a nice little cul-de-sac in a lovely little subdivision surrounded by other families in nearly identical cookie cutter houses.
Caiden was happy with his life. He had wonderful parents who accepted him unconditionally even after he told them, at age fourteen, that he knew he was gay. Caiden knew that he was lucky. Not all parents would be as accepting of a child who was gay.
Caiden also had a best friend named Oliver Mills. Caiden and Oliver had been friends ever since their first day of preschool when another little boy pushed Caiden down and stole his stuffed bulldog, Frog. Oliver snatched the dog back, told the other boy to go away and not come back, and helped Caiden up off of the floor. From that moment on, the two were inseparable. Even more so when they both realized that the other was also gay.
Now, mind you, life wasn’t always the proverbial bowl of cherries for our young man. After all, whose life is? But for the most part, Caiden had a good life.
After graduating from high school, Caiden and Oliver went on to college. They opted to live in a small apartment off campus as opposed to in the dorms. In all honesty, it was Caiden’s idea. He convinced Oliver that it would be the best plan because they’d feel more free and ‘on their own’ if they really *were* on their own. After some wheedling, whining, pouting, and sulking, Caiden got his way…which was what usually happened.
Caiden got a job at a coffee house to help support the two of them and Oliver got a job at a local grocery supply warehouse. Caiden took only part time classes because he discovered that full-time classes plus full-time work equaled a frustrated, worn out, and tantrum prone young man. Oliver, however, was a bit better at handling less sleep and was fine with full-time classes and work.
Both young men settled fairly well into life away from home. There were the occasional problems with forgetting to pay a utility bill now and again. There were arguments over whose turn it was to clean the ‘dreaded bathroom,’ take out the trash, or control the remote control. Most of the arguments tended to sort themselves out in an hour or so. Some, however, escalated into the boys not speaking to each other for several days until one of them finally cracked and came to other with tears and apologies that the other repeated back with the same wholehearted sincerity.
Now, as with all fairy tales, there must be an evil that must be conquered. In the case of young Mr. Ames, the ‘evil that must be conquered’ wasn’t an evil step parent, an evil witch or wizard, or some hideous monster. No, it was simply poor, dear Caiden and his rather unorganized way of living coupled with a sincere denial of that fact. Not to mention his uncanny ability to rarely ever look before he leaps. He’s the sort to dive in head first, never noticing the “Caution, No Diving” sign.
One would suppose that he could’ve turned to his friend Oliver for assistance, but that simply didn’t work as Oliver wasn’t exactly organized himself. He was a bit better than Caiden, but he tended to trip into the same pitfalls. They did manage to keep up with the utilities for the most part, only being shut off on a couple of occasions. And every so often they found themselves down to eating macaroni and cheese or the, erm, “delicious” Ramen noodles.
And also, as with all fairy tales, there must be a handsome prince who assists in the rescue of our young hero. Because, mind you, we can’t simply assume that the dear boy is incapable of rescuing himself. He is, in fact, quite capable of rescuing himself. It’s simply that sometimes…well…sometimes even the heroes of stories want help.
So now let’s get into the meat and potatoes of our little tale, shall we?
Twenty-two year old Caiden Ames slammed his fist down on the evil alarm clock that insisted on waking him. He reluctantly dragged himself from his cozy bed and into the bathroom.
Going to work was *so* not what he wanted to do today. But, sadly, what choice did he have. The bills needed to be paid and he wasn’t about to let go of his precious cell phone for anything!
He showered, handled the usual morning ablutions, dressed and plodded his way unhappily to the kitchen where he blearily checked to see if he’d remembered to set the automatic coffee maker the night before. Luckily he had remembered.
Caiden shoved a couple of Pop Tarts in the toaster and poured himself a cup of liquid heaven (aka coffee). He sat down at the table, curled his fingers around his cup, and inhaled the delicious aroma.
When the toaster popped, he retrieved his breakfast and sat back at the table just as Oliver came shuffling into the kitchen, blearily wiping his face with his hand. He sat down across the table from Caiden and said with raised eyebrows, “Another gourmet breakfast there, Cai?”
“Of course,” Caiden sniffed, “It’s the breakfast of champions.”
Oliver had to snort, “That would be Wheaties, dimwit, not Pop Tarts.” He stood to go and fetch himself a cup of coffee in the hopes that it would give him a bit of a caffeine boost.
They sat in silence. Neither young man was really raring to go this morning. After a day of work and classes, they had, instead of getting proper sleep, decided that it was a good time for an NCIS marathon. (Is there ever such a thing as too much Gibbs and DiNozzo, I think not!) It was around 2:30 in the morning when they finally dragged off to bed.
When it could be put off no longer, Caiden took his cup to the sink and turned to grab his wallet and bus pass. As much as he’d rather stay in bed, he had to get to work. He said good bye to Oliver and headed out.
The bus ride was blissfully quiet compared to how it was some days, and for that Caiden was grateful. He really didn’t feel up to dealing with loud, obnoxious people.
The manager of Books ‘n Beans, the coffee house/book nook where Caiden worked, was just opening up the front door.
“Mornin’ Cassidy,” Caiden said to the red haired woman smiling at him.
“I’d say good morning to you, but you look like road kill,” smirked Cassidy. “Let me guess, another NCIS marathon?” At Caiden’s blush, she snickered, “You really need to get over this infatuation of yours. Granted, they are a nice bit of eye candy, but you’ve got to know your limits, kid.”
“Yeah, yeah,” Caiden murmured, heading back behind the counter for his apron.
The morning seemed to pass normally, which surprised Caiden to no end. He was certain that it would drag by given how tired he was. He was just putting out a plate of his special homemade glazed orange cookies when he heard a groan from Owen, one of his coworkers.
“Something wrong, Owen?” he asked the other man.
“You could say that,” came the morose reply. “My ex-girlfriend is lurking outside the store again. I swear she’s turning into the movie of the week stalker!”
“Poor boy,” said Caiden, “How *do* you handle being so devastatingly irresistible?” He smirked as he turned around to make an adjustment to the espresso machine.
“I don’t know,” came the sincere sounding answer. “But I really wish I could turn it off before it gets me killed or something.”
Caiden’s face broke out in a wide grin he as laughed at his not-so-humble friend. “Owen, you kill me!” he said, mirthfully.
Caiden turned to the counter where he’d seen a customer approach out of the corner of his eye. His smile froze on his face as he stared at the most beautiful man he’d ever set his eyes on. The man in front of him was easily over six feet tall. He had blue eyes so deep that they could’ve been carved from sapphires and hair so ink black that it glinted blue in the light. Caiden was speechless, something that didn’t happen very often at all!
The man smiled at him. Caiden just stood there, at least until Owen ‘casually’ walked past him and jabbed his elbow into his back.
“Um…good morning, sir…can I…uh…help you?” Caiden stammered. ‘Wonderful, stupid, way to make a first impression,’ he mentally berated himself.
The man’s smile seemed to get even warmer. “Yes, I’d love a cup of your cinnamon spice coffee and a couple of those orange cookies that you serve. I love those cookies and none that I find anywhere else are nearly as good.”
“That would be because Caiden, here, makes them himself with his own little hands,” Owen informed the customer.
“Really,” the man looked at Caiden with interest. “Do you use a mix?”
“Um, no actually, it’s my grandmother’s recipe. She used to make them every Christmas,” Caiden told him as he filled a cup with the requested coffee.
“Well, they are absolutely delicious. You’re quite the cook,” complimented the man.
“Thank you,” said Caiden shyly.
The handsome man held out a hand to Caiden, “My name’s Daniel Hurst. What’s yours?”
Taking his hand and shaking it, Caiden replied, “Caiden Ames, pleased to meet you.”
The man, Daniel, leaned forward a bit and said, “You know, there’s this new movie coming out on Friday that I’ve been dying to see. Would you like to come with me, maybe have some dinner first?”
Caiden’s jaw dropped. This gorgeous man was actually asking *him* out? He couldn’t seem to breathe, let alone formulate a coherent answer.
Owen came up behind him and smacked him on the back of the head Gibbs’ style. “What my friend here would like to say, once he discovers his tongue again, is that he would very much like to go out with you. Isn’t that right, Caiden? Give the nice man a nod if you agree.”
Caiden nodded vigorously in agreement.
Daniel chuckled, “Well, now that that’s settled, how about I pick you up at seven?”
“That…that would be great,” Caiden managed to stumble out.
Daniel looked at him with a smile, as if waiting for something.
Owen rolled his eyes in mock frustration and handed Caiden a slip of paper and a pen. “Give him your address and phone number, Romeo,” he said with a smirk.
“Oh, yeah, right,” Caiden replied, his face flushed with embarrassment. He quickly jotted down the necessary information and handed it to Daniel, who took it and handed him the money for his coffee and cookies. “Thanks, see you Friday,” he grinned, slipping the paper into his pocket and taking his purchases.
Caiden slumped against the counter as Daniel left the shop. Owen picked up a piece of cardboard and fanned Caiden’s face. “It’s okay, big boy, just breathe. You’ll be fine,” he chuckled.
Cassidy came out of the office and noticed the two men at the counter. “What’s wrong with him,” she asked Owen.
“He just got asked out by a modern day Greek god,” Owen informed her.
Cassidy laughed warmly, “Why don’t you take him to one of tables and give him some water. I think the shock is about to kill him.”
The rest of day passed by in blur. Caiden was still reeling from the shock when he stumbled into the apartment that evening.
Oliver’s head popped out of his bedroom door, “Hey Cai, don’t you have class tonight?”
Caiden looked at him glassy-eyed, “Um…no, not tonight. The professor had a family emergency and class was canceled.” He wandered over to the couch and plunked himself down.
Oliver walked over to sit beside him, “Dude, you look like you’ve been floored. What’s up?”
Caiden looked over at him, “I have a date.”
“Really? A date? That’s good, right? So why the look of pure astonishment you’ve got going?” Oliver wondered.
“Ol, he’s gorgeous, absolutely gorgeous! He’s like sex on legs! When he smiled at me I felt like I was burning up and freezing at the same time. And when he asked me out I couldn’t even talk!”
“But you did accept, right?”
“Only after Owen literally hit me upside the head! But, yeah, I did. We’ve got a date on Friday, dinner and movie,” Caiden sounded dreamy.
Oliver grinned at his moony-eyed friend, “Way to go, Cai!”
The week passed both too quickly and too slowly in Caiden’s opinion and finally it was Friday. He stood in front of his closet inspecting his clothes. He was a bit distressed to notice that none of his clothes looked even remotely as nice as Daniel’s. But then again, he didn’t exactly have a lot of extra money to spend on clothes. He mostly bought clothes from the local Goodwill and Salvation Army stores. Granted, they were name brand and in relatively good condition, but they were still used.
Sighing, Caiden pulled out a burgundy and white striped button up shirt and a pair of black jeans. He added socks and a pair of black dress shoes to finish. He figured that if Daniel had asked him out whilst he’d been wearing his used clothing, then he must not care if Caiden’s clothes were used. Therefore, there was no reason for Caiden to feel self conscious about his clothing.
He waited in the living room, pacing nervously while glancing at the clock every few seconds. When a knock finally sounded at the door, he jumped and spun around, heart pounding wildly.
Calming himself, he went to answer the door. When he did, there stood Daniel, looking every bit as handsome as he remembered, and then some. He was wearing charcoal jeans, a deep blue shirt that picked up the blue in his eyes, and black Doc Martens. Caiden blushed when he realized that not only was *he* staring at Daniel, but Daniel was also eying *him*. And if the smile was anything to go by, Daniel liked what he saw.
“Hello there,” came Daniel’s silky greeting. “Are you ready to go?”
Caiden was once again struck speechless, but fortunately managed to nod on his own as Owen wasn’t around to smack his head for him.
The evening had been wonderful. They talked. They laughed. They shared stories about their lives. In short, they began the process of getting to know one another. Daniel told Caiden about how he was an attorney, but that he and his best friend Quinn Thacker were getting ready to leave the firm that they were currently working at to begin their own. Caiden told Daniel about how he was taking courses in environmental studies and how he dreamed of having his own farm/ranch someday, how he worked at the coffee shop to make ends meet, and shared an apartment with his best friend Oliver. All in all, the date was a resounding success and promised many more to follow.
Months passed and the two became closer and closer. Daniel was certain that Caiden was ‘the one.’ He couldn’t imagine his life without his firebrand in his life. Caiden was a constant source of amusement and life with him was never dull. The only thing that worried Daniel was Caiden’s habit of acting without thinking. He was worried that one day it would get Caiden into more trouble than he could get out of.
On their six-month anniversary, Daniel asked Caiden to move in with him. He wanted Caiden close to him all the time. Caiden was ecstatic and agreed immediately. The only worry that he had was whether or not Oliver would be okay when he moved out. As it turned out, Oliver had just received a promotion to lower management at the grocery supply and the salary increase would allow him to keep the apartment without too much trouble.
One week after Caiden had moved in and gotten settled, he and Daniel went on a hike at a nearby nature preserve as a way of celebrating.
Caiden took a deep breath and sighed in utter contentment as he walked beside Daniel. He’d never felt so complete, so indescribably happy.
Daniel looked over at him, smiled, and put an arm around Caiden’s shoulders. Caiden leaned into the embrace. He’d never felt as safe or as loved as he did in Daniel’s arms.
They both turned when they heard a dog barking and a child laughing behind them. Down the trail they saw a couple and their two small children, two boys, also enjoying a hike with the family dog on a leash. It wasn’t a big dog. It was more of a mutt, really. But it was a rather nice looking mutt. They made a nice picture of a young family. Caiden couldn’t help but grin at the Norman Rockwell picture that they made.
“You look happy,” Daniel commented to him.
“I could say the same thing about you,” returned Caiden.
Daniel chuckled softly and squeezed Caiden’s shoulders. “You really are an incredible man, you know that?”
Caiden opened his mouth to reply, but he was interrupted by a rustling sound in the nearby foliage. Lumbering out of the wooded area and onto the path about fifty feet or so ahead of them was a rather large and sickly looking raccoon. Caiden could hear the mutt behind them barking frantically at the creature.
Caiden started to take a tentative step toward the raccoon in an attempt to get a better look at it. But he was stopped by Daniel’s arm on his shoulders. “Caiden, I don’t think that’s a good idea. I think there’s something very wrong with that animal,” Daniel said tensely.
“You’re right,” Caiden agreed. “It’s got rabies. It’s got all of the obvious symptoms of the later stages. It looks like it’s in the stupor stage.”
“Well, let’s get back,” Daniel shivered. “I’ve seen Old Yeller. I know how this sort of story ends, and it always ends badly.”
Caiden was about to concur when he heard a shriek from behind them as a blur of brownish fur streaked past them. It was the mutt, and it was heading straight for the rabid raccoon.
“Cat, come back!” screamed the smaller of the two boys.
Caiden snorted, ‘Cat. A dog named Cat.’ But at the same time his heart wrenched at the thought of the boys seeing what could easily be the very bloody death of their beloved pet.
Without thought, Caiden jerked away from Daniel’s arm and launched himself after the errant pooch. He ran full pelt until he was close enough to lunge forward and grab the leash trailing behind the dog. They were about twenty feet from the stumbling animal. He lay there for a second or two to catch his breath before tugging heavily on the leash, dragging the dog to him.
The raccoon growled, hissed and shrieked at Caiden and the dog, luckily still a bit too far away to be an immediate threat. He picked the dog up and backed away from the hysterical animal, trying to appear as non aggressive as he could. He kept his hand firmly wrapped around the muzzle of the dog to keep him quiet.
When he had backed up near to where Daniel was standing, and looking rather gray in the face, Daniel grabbed his shoulders and moved as expeditiously as possible away from the potential threat.
Once far enough away, he told Caiden quietly, “Give the dog back to his owners and then I think all of us better get the heck outta Dodge!”
Caiden couldn’t agree more. He handed the animal over to the father and followed as the parents quickly herded their children back towards the main entrance and park office.
Before they reached the office, Daniel pulled Caiden to a stop and let the family go on ahead. As soon as they had gone around a corner and out of sight, Daniel whirled Caiden around to face him. “Just *what* did you think you were doing back there?” he demanded.
“What?” Caiden sounded honestly confused.
“Going after that dog like that! You could’ve been bitten! That was beyond dangerous!” Daniel’s eyes flashed with fear, anger, and relief that Caiden was unbitten. “I don’t think I’ve ever been so scared!”
“I’m sorry,” Caiden apologized. “I didn’t think. I just saw the dog running, heard the kids crying, and just *had* to try to save the dog.” He shrugged, “It just…seemed like the thing to do at the time.”
“The thing to…I can’t believe you…didn’t think,” Daniel stammered at an utter loss of words.
Suddenly he grabbed Caiden, spun him around, bent him over under his left arm, and began to spank him over his jeans. Over and over he spanked him, covering every available surface of the backside in front of him.
At first Caiden was too shocked to speak. But when he found his voice, he began to demand that Daniel stop. “Let me up Daniel! Ow! What do you think you’re doing? Oh! You can’t do this!”
“Do you have *any* idea how terrified I was?” Daniel demanded as he continued to pepper Caiden’s rear with spanks. “Do you know the sick feeling that I had when I pictured that raccoon tearing into you with those sharp teeth and claws? Did you ever even consider stopping and thinking before doing something so dangerous?”
Caiden was speechless. Actually, no, he hadn’t stopped to consider any of that. Suddenly he felt absolutely awful. His heart ached when he thought of how Daniel must’ve been feeling. His eyes began to fill with tears and not just because of the increasing burning ache in his hind quarters.
“Daniel, I’m sorry! I’m so sorry! I didn’t mean it, honest! I won’t do it again! I promise!” Caiden began to cry, tears cascading down his face. He grabbed the strong arm that was holding him in place with both of his hands and held on tightly.
The spanking stopped. Daniel straightened Caiden up and looked into his eyes. Caiden could see the tears in Daniel’s eyes and that just made him feel even worse.
“Caiden, you are an amazing man. You have a big heart, an intelligent mind, a quick wit, and a brave soul. I’ve fallen so hard for you that even *I* was caught off guard. You’ve become so much a part of me that I can’t imagine my life without you. What you did today was brave, yes, but it was also foolish and completely dangerous. It tore my heart out to think that something could happen to you and that I’d be powerless to do anything to help.”
“I’m sorry, Daniel, I really am! I don’t know why I do it. It just sort of…makes sense at the time,” Caiden sniffled.
“Well, that might be something that I can help you with,” Daniel offered, cupping Caiden’s cheek with his hand and wiping the tears away with his thumb. “If you want me to, that is.”
Caiden looked into Daniel’s face. He could see the love in Daniel’s eyes intermingled with the residual fear of losing him. “Okay,” he said. “I want you to help me.”
Daniel pulled Caiden into his arms and kissed his forehead. “We’ll talk about it when we get home, okay? For now, let’s go make sure that the park rangers know where to go to take care of their little ‘coon problem.”
Daniel led Caiden down the path while Caiden wiped his face and attempted to pull himself together, not wanting anyone to know he’d been crying. That would do nothing for his manly pride, after all.
Later that evening, Daniel and Caiden sat down together and Daniel explained to Caiden about Tops and Brats. He explained that it had nothing at all to do with Caiden not being able to take care of himself. It didn’t mean that he wasn’t a capable adult. It just meant that there are simply some people who are wired to want help and that there are some people wired to want to help them. Caiden listened to what Daniel had to say and had to agree with what he was saying. The more that Daniel explained, the more Caiden could feel like this was the right choice for himself.
After setting some ground rules and agreeing on consequences for breaking rules, Daniel and Caiden headed off to bed. Caiden snuggled down into Daniel’s arms. He felt so content, so safe, so loved, and so complete. This, here in Daniel’s arms, was where he belonged. He was home.
And here we leave our handsome young hero and his equally handsome prince. Now, if you want to see if they live “happily ever after,” you’ll simply have to wait and see because they have so much living left to do. But just remember, it all started with “once upon a time…”