I can’t say I’m very happy with how this story turned out, and I intend to redo it when I finish the other stories I have planned. I just wanted to share something with you. The goal of this piece is just to give readers an idea of how Dustin was feeling during the first book.
So here is the first version of Dustin’s Book 1.
Despite everything he told himself, Dustin couldn’t help it. He was crushing hardcore on his new boss. It didn’t matter that Vince had a girlfriend or that Dustin was afraid he’d never be able to handle a relationship after his time on the streets, he couldn’t stop thinking about Vince.
Not that he could really blame himself when he thought about it. Vince was gorgeous and so damn nice. Dustin wasn’t used to people being so nice to him, and he tried telling himself that he was latching on to the first good guy he had met after so much hell. That didn’t stop him from cherishing his time with Vince, which he got just enough of to wonder if he could consider Vince a friend at least. Though everyone else at the stable helped him learn the ropes, Vince was the one who took the time to teach him how to ride, which was both terrifying and exhilarating.
As horrible as he felt about it, Dustin secretly cheered when Vince and Jane broke up, until he noticed how disappointed Vince seemed to be. He didn’t seem overly upset, Dustin noticed, which was interesting. He didn’t dare let himself hope what it might mean until the night Vince got drunk at the Anderson Stables Fourth of July picnic and Vince’s father approached Dustin.
“Do you mind making sure he gets to the house in one piece?” Wes Anderson asked. “He’s more likely to accept your help than mine.”
Dustin nodded. “I can do that.”
Wes smiled, then shot his son another concerned look. “Thank you.”
Dustin really was happy to help, and the privacy allowed him to get to know Vince a bit better – when his drunken sentences made sense. Then there was the part where Vince admitted that he and Jane had ended things because he was gay. That made sense to Dustin, but he worried about how Vince would feel about the confession when he was sober. He had proceeded to throw up some more practically before he’d finished speaking.
Dustin didn’t say anything to reassure Vince then, just helped him hobble to bed wearing everything but his shoes. Though eh hadn’t been asked to do more than help Vince get home, Dustin felt obligated to stay for a while to make sure Vince was okay. He took up a spot on a rocking chair in the room that already had a blanket draped over it. But the conversation with Vince made it hard for him to sleep, so he wandered over to the bookshelf in the corner and found a book to read while he kept his eye on Vince, who was sound asleep on his side. Eventually he did fall asleep despite his raging thoughts, but woke again at his usual time and left after checking on Vince again.
Caring for the horses with so much missed sleep was rough, and he ended up being sent back to his little house for a nap in a real bed. Anna, the assistant barn manager, blamed Vince, not him, which he could live with. He was surprised when a very hungover and miserable Vince showed up a few hours later, though.
To apologize. As expected, he seemed to think he’d freaked Dustin out. Luckily, Dustin admitting his own sexuality was enough to put Vince at ease.
And Vince’s return from anxious to relaxed was enough for Dustin’s crush to grow. Especially after Vince arranged for Dustin to get his own horse. Justin had been taken to Anderson Stables the same day Dustin had been hired, and Dustin had somehow found himself attached to the former racehorse. Vince had let him have a major part in Justin’s training as part of his own training experience, and when it came time to put the thoroughbred up for sale, it had crushed Dustin’s heart. Apparently Vince had noticed, because he soon offered Dustin the contract that legally made him Justin’s owner.
At first, Dustin had believed Vince’s story about convincing Wes that Dustin should have Justin for nothing. But the more he thought about it, the more sure he was that Vince had purchased Justin for him. He was too afraid to confront Vince about it, and he was too happy for the thought to bother him. Justin was like a dream come true, and Dustin didn’t use that phrase lightly. Maybe there was hope for him and Vince after all.
Then there was the way Vince handled the situation after things got rough for Dustin. He never really found out if Chris, one of his fellow stable hands, had been trying to get him hurt or just being an asshole, but when Dustin refused to ride a horse with very little training, Chris got violent.
“What are you, some dumb fag?” Chris demanded.
Something about Dustin’s posture must have set him off, because the next thing he knew, Chris was hitting him, yelling about how fags like him should be beaten to death. The flashbacks hit him as he hit the sand of the arena. He didn’t fight back. It was all he could do to protect his face.
He wasn’t quite sure who stepped in to stop Chris from beating the living shit out of him. All he knew was that it wasn’t Vince, because he was at his sister’s wedding. It wasn’t until he left the hospital a few hours later that he even came out of his weird haze of semi-flashback. He never did remember telling Anna the truth of his sexuality.
By the time Vince returned home, Dustin was more focused and able to coherently say that he didn’t want Chris fired. Okay, so maybe he was still in a weird mental state. But the stable was too busy not to keep one of the more experienced stable hands. Reluctantly, Dustin agreed to the condition that, if Chris touched or threatened him again, he would be fired. At least Vince had consulted him in the first place. It made him feel like he was worth something.
But pretty soon he felt worthless. All the emotion of the summer – the highs and lows of a new life and a new crush – led to Dustin drinking his fair share of alcohol at Vince’s birthday party. He wasn’t a big drinker thanks to his strict religious upbringing, so just a few beers was too much. Vince followed him to the barn just to keep him from getting himself killed.
Dustin’s drunk brain that night and hangover the next day prevented him from remembering the details of their conversation, but he did remember one brief, awkward kiss that ended in rejection. The emotions of being so completely turned down were strong enough to survive any hangover. Vince didn’t want him.
Then why did he follow Dustin back to his house? Why did he turn off Dustin’s alarm clock? Why did he leave him a barf bucket, a glass of water, and a note telling him not to worry about his morning chores?
He was just being a decent friend and a good boss. He was just going to calmly and politely turn Dustin down again when he was sober.
What else could it mean?
Dustin spent the next few days avoiding Vince, until Anna roped him into some sort of meeting. He wasn’t even sure what it was about until it started. Despite his feelings, he still wanted so badly to support Vince in whatever he did. Deep down, Dustin wanted to help him compete at the highest levels of show jumping. The show he’d been to over the summer had been enjoyable, and doing that more often sounded wonderful.
But he knew that, in reality, he couldn’t do that. Clearly Vince had rejected him. He hadn’t asked Dustin to help him and he sure hadn’t tryied talking to Dustin about the kiss. Not that Dustin had tried, either. Or really given Vince much of a chance.
The decision came abruptly. He found his copy of Justin’s purchase papers and ripped off the last page, the page that allowed him to sign ownership back over to Anderson Stables. He filled it out, then walked to the barn and spent a short time saying goodbye to the first animal he had ever loved. From there it was a quick walk to Wes Anderson’s house, where he handed over the paperwork without a word.
“Did something happen?” Wes asked, looking at the paper in obvious confusion.
“I’m sorry,” was all Dustin could get out before he turned from the door and headed back to his own house.
He had just finished packing when Vince showed up. Nothing would ever surprise him more than seeing Vince there to stop him from leaving. Dustin hadn’t even known where he was going, he had just been overcome by the need to get out, get away, leave. And there was Vince, the very person he was running from, ready to stop him. And not just with words. How they’d ended up kissing was a mystery to him, but it was enough to make Dustin truly believe that Vince did not intend to reject him again.
But, even though he had agreed to stay, and even though Vince wanted him in a very new way, Dustin couldn’t fight his fears after Vince finally left him that night. What if Dustin’s demons got in the way? What if he couldn’t be intimate without having flashbacks? What if he ran the first time they had a normal argument?
What if Vince decided that he didn’t want to be with a guy after all? Or with Dustin in particular? What if he was settling for the first guy he met after accepting his own sexuality? And what if he decided he was actually bisexual and went back to Jane? Or went back to her because he felt like he needed to? What if being with Dustin wasn’t what he needed?
And the most horrible fear that had been lurking for months: were these strange physical symptoms a sign that he had a horrible disease that could kill him?
Vince was going to be away in Florida training racehorses for the next several months. That gave Dustin time to face his fears, he hoped. All of them.