Zeke is a hermit in his late forties who lives a quiet life in a small cabin in the Western Montana mountains, a few miles outside of Thompson Falls. He’s gotten used to being alone since the end of the world, and has everything he needs. Everything but someone to talk to.
Nathan is a younger man on a cross-country trek, searching the country for someone… anyone still alive. Saddled with a ghost from his old life and a case of OCD, he stumbles upon Thompson Falls and a pack of rabid dogs.
Rescued by Zeke, he has to figure out how to be human again. And with Christmas just a week away, both men have to figure out if there’s something left to be hopeful for, and if they might have a future together.
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Nathan had flinched when Zeke had hugged him. He had started to shake.
Did that mean Nathan liked him? Was afraid of him, disgusted by him? He didn’t know how to read the signs. He’d always been crap with all that touchy feely stuff.
He glared at the stacks of dirty dishes. He hadn’t quite finished cleaning the place, but maybe he could keep Nathan out of there until he had a chance to get things organized.
His visitor seemed like a nice guy. Zeke wished his gaydar was better.
He washed the plates with some dish soap, giving them a good scrub, and dried them with some of his precious paper towels. He pulled out the last of his smoked salmon and put it on the plates, along with the fruit salad. “I have a few Snapples left,” he called. “Lemon or peach?”
“Peach is fine.”
Zeke hauled the plates and a couple forks out into the living room and presented one of them to Nathan with a flourish. “Compliments of the chef.”
Nathan laughed. “What I wouldn’t give to go to a nice restaurant again.” He took the plate and set it on his lap.
“I would love to have cheese again. Especially mozzarella.”
“I would die for a Hershey’s Special Dark chocolate bar.”
“I loved dark chocolate.” Zeke returned with the drinks and a couple more paper towels and took a seat on the floor against the wall by the fireplace where he could see Nathan properly. “Where did you start out on your journey?”
“Vermont. Seems like I’ve been walking forever.” Nathan took a bite of the salmon. “What about you? Ooh, this is delicious.”
Zeke looked around the old cabin. So many memories. “I grew up here. This was my Dad’s place. He passed away a few years ago.”
“It’s… nice.” Nathan took a drag on the bottle of Peach Snapple.
“It’s a pack-rat’s heaven,” Zeke corrected him.
“Yeah.” Nathan smiled wanly. “Sorry. My OCD is getting the better of me. I thought I had it under control, but the dog attack, and being in a place like this… Stress is a big trigger for me.”
“Oh man. I’m sorry.” A light went on in Zeke’s head. “That’s why you wanted the Xanax.” He glanced outside. It was getting dark. “I can run to town right now—”
“It’s all right. I can cope until tomorrow. The Xanax just helps take the edge off for a few hours; gives me time to cope. I’ve learned other ways to manage it.”
“So… OCD. Like that TV detective, Monk?”
Nathan winced. “Yeah. Kinda. It’s more complicated than that.”
“How long have you had it?” Zeke’s gaze lingered on Nathan’s naked chest. He was feeling warmer than he ought to.
“Since I was ten.” Nathan looked at the piles of stuff around the room.
Poor guy looked nervous as hell. “You think hoarding is a kind of OCD?” Zeke joked to lighten the mood.
Nathan snorted. “This isn’t hoarding. It’s survival.”
“Yeah, I suppose you’re right.” Nathan was handsome, even dirty as he was. Zeke decided that he wanted to kiss him rather badly.
He shifted his trousers. He wasn’t usually so out of control like this.
Of course, Nathan had the whole only other living human being on the face of the Earth thing going for him too.
He decided that if there weren’t queer characters in his favorite genres, he would remake them to his own ends.
A Rainbow Award winning and runs Queer Sci Fi, QueeRomance Ink, Liminal Fiction, and Other Worlds Ink with Mark, sites that celebrate fiction reflecting queer reality, and is a full member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA).