They lay in bed together. The smaller man was draped across his lover, his blonde hair laying against the larger man's strong chest. They were curled up together, holding each other like young lovers after a night of passion. Their closeness spoke of affection, tenderness, and love.

Hunter was asleep, his deep, peaceful breaths causing Shawn's head to move gently up and down. Shawn was awake, enjoying the simple pleasure of listening to his lover's heart beat.

It had been 8 years since they had wed. For 8 years, they had lived as husbands to each other. They shared a house, a bed, a life. For some of that, they had been together on the road, both enjoying the climbing success of their careers. Then came the heartbreak of Shawn's injury, and the painful separation, as Hunter went back on the road, and Shawn stayed at home, pursuing whatever interests he fancied.

They had remained close, even though they no longer saw each other every day. They spoke often on the phone, sharing all the details of their daily lives, and on the weekends and holidays when Hunter was home, they spent much time in passionate love making and romantic fantasies.

Despite the hardships they had faced, Shawn had felt that he had truly found happiness in life. He had Hunter's love and support, and that alone made their worries seem trivial. He had been so in love, he completely missed all the signs which began to pop up. There were nights when Hunter ‘forgot' to call. There were times when a strange voice would answer Hunter's cell phone. And there were times when Hunter would come home smelling of a strange cologne. Shawn thought nothing of these things; he knew Hunter had a busy schedule, and he knew Hunter had many friends on the road. He trusted Hunter, and he would not doubt someone he loved so deeply.

It had not been until he had returned to the road in the spring of 2002 that the cold, hard reality had dawned on him. Hunter was cheating on him, and he had been for years. Hunter liked to go out with attractive young men, liked to wine and dine them, and liked to bed them. The fact that Shawn was back on the road was hardly going to put a stop to the habits he had developed over years of traveling alone. He continued to court whomever he wished, and he flaunted it for the world to see.

Shawn had been heartbroken. It had torn him to pieces that not only did Hunter cheat on him, but he was heartless enough to throw it in his faithful lover's face. He had cursed Hunter, had screamed at him, had told him they were through. He had cried himself to sleep many nights, punching the pillows he sobbed into and asking why.

He had stayed apart from Hunter for a week before his unfaithful lover had approached him. Hunter had surprised him with flowers and a box of chocolates. He had told Shawn he was sorry for deceiving him, had expressed profusely how much he loved and missed him. Shawn had melted, falling back into his arms. He couldn't help it; he loved Hunter with all his heart and couldn't stand to be away from him.

Hunter, however, had never promised that the affairs would cease, nor did they. He continued to bed as many pretty young men as he wished, sometimes ignoring Shawn for weeks at a time. It was hard for Shawn, at first. He would cry himself to sleep, wishing he could turn back time, back to the time when Hunter would hold him every night and tell him over and over again that he would never love another.

Every now and then, whenever he fancied, Hunter would turn his attentions to Shawn, treating him to all the romance and passion he had once showered upon him. Shawn relished those nights, clung to them, remembering them on all the cold nights he lay alone in bed.

He had grown accustomed to it, after a while. Being alone became something of a habit. He found small, meaningless things to occupy himself with. He tried to stay busy, tried to keep himself distracted so he could forget how empty his life had grown. Gradually, the nights he spent alone became more and more frequent, Hunter's visits turning into a rarity. It had come to a point where Shawn was greatly surprised when Hunter did occasionally show up to pay him some attention.

Shawn had also grown dismally aware of the fact that, no matter how poorly Hunter treated him, he would never leave him. It wasn't simply because Hunter would turn his charm on if Shawn ever tried it and easily win him back; Shawn was putty in Hunter's skilled hands, and Hunter knew it. But Shawn would never truly want to leave Hunter. He loved him, and he wanted no other man in his life. Even if Hunter only recognized his existence once a week, once a fortnight, once a month, it was still worth it. Any attention from Hunter was like a precious jewel to Shawn; he craved it more than anything, but accepted that it would be rarely and sparingly granted.

Hunter had been courting another cute young buck over the past few weeks, flaunting his adultery, as he always did. He never cared if Shawn saw him with his latest fling. Just a few days ago, he had made out with the pretty young man in the locker room, right in front of Shawn and a dozen others. The others had simply shook their heads, the newer ones whispering questions to their fellows. They didn't understand why Shawn stayed, but they kept their mouths shut. Shawn had made it clear that he did not wish to speak about Hunter's affairs, nor did he wish to be spoken to about it. Shawn knew they pitied him, but he didn't care. They would never understand.

It had been a delightful shock when Hunter had shown up at his door earlier that night. He had with him a single red rose, which he presented to Shawn with a grin. Shawn had melted, as always, immediately letting Hunter into his room. Hunter had swept him into his arms, holding him tightly and whispering words of love. His mere presence filled Shawn with such joy he felt he could've exploded from happiness.

They had sat on the couch for a while, chatting casually like they had done every night in years past. Their conversation had turned eventually into kissing, and kissing in turn led to sex. It had been hot and passionate, yet tender and loving at the same time. Afterwards, Hunter had pulled his sated lover against his body, holding him tight and whispering his love.

Shawn now lay awake, not wanting to yield to sleep and miss out on moments spent with his lover. He was so happy to be lying there, in Hunter's arms, his head resting on Hunter's chest. He knew it wouldn't last long, and probably wouldn't come again for some time. But he would bear the loneliness, and he would continue to turn a blind eye to Hunter's affairs. He would take the snippets of attention Hunter offered him, and he would not complain. He would do it because he loved him.


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