by DWSimon 02/08/04
Going pale, he stepped out onto the porch. "Is something wrong with Sean? Did something happen to him?"
Taken aback by his vehemence, Margaret stared at Ken for a moment before answering, satisfied that she had gotten a few answers of her own by his statement. "Sean is fine. Physically."
The last word, spoken icily had Ken looking sheepishly at his shoes. "I'm glad he isn't hurt." He looked in her eyes and let all the sincerity he felt shine in them. "I'd die if something happened to him." He stepped back and motioned her inside. Margaret followed him to the living room and sat next to him on the big sofa.
Margaret looked around the room before turning to Ken and giving him a small smile. "So you do care for him?"
Ken's whole face lit up; he was smiling so big, but staring off, as if to something unseen. "He's everything." Then he looked directly into Margaret's eyes and she almost gasped from the intensity of his eyes. "I had no clue what it was to love someone before Sean. No idea how wonderful and horrible it could be."
Margaret actually chuckled. "Of course it is wonderful. And yes, it can be horrible." She had tears in her eyes. "When my husband and I met, I had no clue what I was getting in to. I thought it was all like on the television shows." Her smile got bigger. "When we had our first fight, I was positive it was all over. We both clung to each other that night and promised to never let it happen again." She started laughing really hard and looked at Ken, who returned her smile. "I think it was the next day when we fought again." She cupped Ken's cheek, tickled by the bristles of his beard. "I have a strong feeling that you are a good man Ken. I believe that you love Sean with your whole heart."
Ken could only nod around the lump in his throat, wondering why this woman was being so kind to him. "I do love him. I love him terribly."
She smiled warmly, brushing a slipped tear from Ken's cheek. "I'm glad. Sean loves you too. Ever so much." Then she looked sternly at Ken and it was his turn to flinch. "But why are you hurting him? Why did he come to me and break down in my arms, like he hasn't done since he was eight years old, while we were in Chicago?"
His voice grew so faint and his face became haunted. "He saw something that upset him. I have a feeling I know what he thinks he saw, but it wasn't like what he's thinking."
Confusion arched her eyebrows. "Why haven't you tried to tell him this?"
Ken swallowed hard. "I'm afraid I can't."
With that Margaret snorted. Then she let him have it. "And what do you have to be afraid of? My God! You found someone who loves you, wholeheartedly. No matter what." She stuck her finger in his chest and started poking with each statement. "He loves you. With everything that he is, he loves you. Why are you killing him? Why are you hurting him? Why?" And with an almost feral scream, "Why?"
Ken had tears in his eyes, but he really had no answer. It killed him inside to know that he had hurt Sean so badly. He never wanted to do that. He would rather cut off his hand than hurt his love. When he couldn't respond, Margaret simply sighed and punched him in the arm. "Grow up Ken. Stop being so selfish and deal with it." She then wrapped Ken up in his arms and it was too much. Ken's parents had died while he was in college. He had forgotten what it was like to be hugged by a mother. He started sobbing uncontrollably. She stroked his hear and murmured nonsense comfort words into his hair. When he had calmed, she wiped his tear-streaked face and kissed his forehead. "You'll figure it out Ken. Just don't take too long. Please. For both of your sakes." With that she stood and walked out the door. Ken followed and watched as she walked along the sidewalk and got in her car.
It was his youngest nephew, Martin's, birthday. So Sean drove down off his mountain to attend his party. His eyes weren't quite as haunted, but he still looked like he hadn't been eating very well, or much. The sadness never left his eyes, but he put up a great front for the boys. Margaret watched as he played with them on the floor, letting the two of them climb all over him, always having delighted in this in the past. It was after dinner and the cake that Sean's brother-in-law Alex came to him outside and gave him the envelope. The pride in his eyes made Sean smile for the first time in days. Alex and Sean's sister Maddy worked so hard, making ends meet and stretching each dollar. So when he opened the envelope, his heart fell, but he couldn't say no. The generosity was beyond measure. But it would kill him. Alex had bought two tickets to the World Series, same section only two rows closer than the regular season tickets. It must have cost Alex a good grand to do it. And the look of pride in his eyes would only allow Sean to do one thing. Go. He hugged Alex up and thanked him warmly.
"Thank you so much, Alex. You didn't have to do this."
Alex's grin was so broad. "Yes I did. You gave me all your season tickets. I've enjoyed being with my boys and watching them enjoy the games. I couldn't have done it without you." He smiled sheepishly. "You gave up a lot for me. It was the least I could do."
Sean was so very touched he had to swallow around the lump in his throat and agreed to go to the game with him. Besides, perhaps it wouldn't go to a seventh game. Perhaps he wouldn't have to go and be able to refund his money. Only as Sean had learned, fate was a cruel thing. The series was tied 3-3 and they were coming home, to try and capture victory on their home turf.
It looked very much like the home team was going to lose. By the sixth inning, they were behind, 3-5. And it was only getting worse. Ken was full of anxiety. He was so close to reaching his goal. He was inches away from the prize. The whole team was feeling it. Restless. Agitated. Ken had hit a solo homerun in the first and it had rallied the fans. It was when he came back to the dugout to get his catcher's gear on that he spotted Sean in the stands. He had always looked, every game, trying to see if Sean would come back. He never did. But he was here now. The look of pride in Sean's eyes had warmed him so much. He had gone and thrown two runners out who were trying to steal second. He was pumped. Sean was here. Then the pitcher tore his shoulder on a pitch that resulted in the grand slam that had put them ahead. Morale was shot and they scored one more before retiring the side. It had been two innings. They had regrouped, but the other team's pitcher was a tough one. They were playing their hearts out, but it just didn't look good.
Sean watched in absolute agony. He had felt oddly annoyed that he took such pride in Ken's performance. The man hadn't called him once. Had let himself be groped by a groupie in that hotel. Ken even shunned him at the home games, chasing him away from his time with his nephews. But despite all of that, there was still the love. Shining bright. Blinding in its brilliance. Sean told himself that he would stay through the end, just to see if Ken would get MVP. That wonderful week, so long ago, he had shared with Sean that that was his ultimate goal to win the World Series and make MVP. Now he could just sit and be anxious with the rest of the crowd, cheering on the team, feeling the rush of victory.
It was the bottom of the ninth, two runners on base, the score still 3-5. Ken walked up to the plate and took his stance. The ball whizzed by. Strike one. Second pitch went wild, fell out of the catcher's hands and the runners advanced a base to second and third. Third pitch, fouled to right field. Before the fourth pitch, Ken looked up to the stands and Sean. The love in his eyes shone through and Ken felt warmed by it. He faced the pitcher, watched him wind up and throw the ball. Time seemed to slow. The pitch was perfect, right where Ken needed it. His arm shook with the impact of the ball. The loud crack rang out across the field. Ken pitched his foot and took off for first. He didn't even watch to see where the ball landed but kept going, reaching first and looking for the base coach's signal to go on. He ran for second, the roar of the crowd deafening. He saw the sign in center field flash brightly. Home run! He'd hit a home run. The game was theirs. They had won! Ken finished running the bases into the open arms of the team, tossing him up on their shoulders. There were hugs and pats all over the place. The excitement was exquisite.
Sean stood with the rest of the fans, cheering and jumping up and down, hugging Alex up and whooping with the rest of the adoring crowd. His heart was bursting with pride. He couldn't stop the grin on his face or the tears from rolling down his cheeks. His love was a hero, a champ. The fans sat after several minutes of jubilee. The presentation of the trophy to the team was going to be followed by the presentation of MVP. Sean sat, not sure if he wanted to be there. He didn't know if he was going to want to see the end of it all. His heart was so full of love and pride, but he didn't know if he could face it. He stood and told Alex he was going. Alex went to join him, but they had taken different cars so there was no need. So Sean made his way out of the stadium, seeing in the monitors that Ken was indeed named World Series MVP. It was with a sad smile that he crossed the street and trudged his way to the car, crawling in and driving home, away from the city, back to the cabin.
When Ken heard his name announced as MVP he was all grins; still rushing from the adrenaline of victory. He walked out onto the pitcher's mound, shaking the commissioner's hand. As he was handed his plaque, he looked up into the stands, searching for Sean. But he wasn't there. His spot was empty. And Ken knew at that moment that it just didn't matter anymore. A lump formed in his throat as he was given the mike.
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