Can't Go Back

by: Romano | Complete Story | Last updated Feb 24, 2015

Chapter 5
Hold Your Ground

It isn’t over-the-top.

It is a legitimate testimony now, which Zach can state with one-hundred percent sincerity and not feel the least bit unjust.

His body, volatile and vindictive as it is, has officially declared war. And he’s on the losing side.

Looking back, the night had started out innocent enough. Following a tension-filled day at work, Zach was dog-tired, kneading his eyes and blinking profusely, and had crawled into bed gratefully.

Not before saying goodnight to Eric, of course - a night-time ritual which is now somehow comprised of a warm hug and a habitual hair ruffle, something he’s not certain when or how came to pass. It didn’t feel strange to totter into what he’d taken to terming ’his’ room after inarticulately mumbling a ’night-night’ to his boss, while suckling leisurely on his slimy thumb, blankie slung over one shoulder. Nor was it weird for Eric to then - for the fifth time that week - remind him to deposit his grubby socks in the wash instead of sketchily shedding and abandoning them on the floor.

What was odd, however, was the ring of warmth staining the saturated sheets, which Zach strongly suspected wasn’t caused by sweat, as well as his incriminating damp pyjama bottoms when he rouses early the next morning.

For a moment, he doesn’t dare to breathe.

Doesn’t dare to believe.

He, Zach Holden of questionably mature status, has just-he just-how could he really wet-

One infinitesimal movement and he feels rather than hears the muted squelch.

Gnawing on his already fragile psyche, it starts somewhere deep inside - wringing out his stomach muscles and crushing his ribs, a cramping of his diaphragm as his spinal cord judders, gagging on air in a hopelessly dedicated bid to keep the tears at bay.

Zach shoves a fist into his mouth to asphyxiate his cries, chest heaving with the tremendous force of his distress as his jaw clenches around his flesh. Against his best efforts, a sob breaks loose, nostrils flaring in clipped, vehement exhales.

He’s shaking all over, rocking mechanically.

This is it, Zach thinks. This is what it’s come to.

It has never been as clear as it is right then that it-it’s over. His life - as he knows it - is over. Just like that.

By now, one would imagine he’d have at least semi-accepted his doom, but nothing could have prepared him for this. The young associate honestly did not see this one coming and he’s blind-sided and betrayed, and the grief alone for what-will-never-be is very nearly all-consuming.

It simply isn’t fair. Nobody promised Zach the world, but he just went ahead and bloody well dreamed of it anyway. It feels like everything he has worked so hard for is being ripped away from him just as he’s finally getting his shit together.

And the fact that his automatic reaction is to cry like a goddamn overgrown baby? Just pisses him off all the more.

Perhaps in the back of his mind, Zach registers the oncoming footsteps hurrying down the hall or the door being wrenched open, but for the most part, he’s too immersed in his battle of really, really trying not to break down.

Safe to say, mission failed.

"Zach, puppy, are you o-" Eric cuts off, freezing.

Gaze drawn to the sickening, soiled state of the boy’s bed, his boss’s face crumples in understanding marred by bald-faced sympathy, while Zach’s cheeks are engulfed in flames, wishing more than anything that someone would shoot him in the head and put him out of his misery. It would be the humane thing to do. The humiliation that burns through his system is unbearable.

"Aw, buddy…"

Zach whimpers.

"Didn’t-didn’t mean to!"

"I know you didn’t, puppy," Eric soothes, spurred into action. "It’s okay." Careful to avoid the soaked area, he perches on the edge of the bed and brings Zach into a one-armed hug, pressing a kiss to his temples and relaxingly rubbing his back.

"Didn’t-didn’t-" Rubbing his congested nose, the kid hiccups. "Didn’t mean to, ‘Ric. M’sorry."

"You have nothing to be sorry for, kiddo," Eric states firmly, but Zach turns away and refuses to look at him. Brows bunching, the older man gently grasps his chin and tilts his head towards him, before declaring, "I mean it, Zach. This is not your fault. I don’t blame you and I don’t want you blaming yourself."

He shakes his head, eyes rimmed red and stubbornly leaking. "But I’m not a’spposed to-"

"Zach, seriously, it’s okay," Eric repeats, meeting his anguished gaze unflinchingly. His grip tightens as he attempts to placate, "Little boys have accidents all the time. It’s no big deal-"

Zach stills.

Like an elastic band snapping into place, a dash of adult (teenage) comprehension is restored. Enough for him to counter with uncharacteristic coldness, "I’m not a little boy."

Eric blinks.


"I’m not a little boy," he repeats, a muscle in his cheek compressing. "I’m a man. A fully fledged man."

Shrugging out of the lawyer’s offhand embrace, arm falling away, Zach grits, "Remember?"

"I know that," he replies, but Eric looks visibly uncertain, forehead tight as if blasted by a sudden headache.

"I’m just saying-"

"Why are you here, anyhow? I know I didn’t make that much noise."


"Do you check on me? At night?" Zach doesn’t even give him a chance to answer before shaking his head and scoffing in disbelief, "Scratch that. What am I saying? Of course, you do. But that still doesn’t explain how you knew I was upset now. It’s way too early for you to be up."

Any other day and that look on Eric’s face would have made him back-pedal, but his pride has just taken a severe blow (don’t forget, he’s imprisoned by the evidence of his own disgrace. Ha - forget. He won’t ever forget) and Zach is as merciless as his goddamn lazy bladder.

"Don’t feed me any bullshit, either, about how you just magically ’knew’ or whatever. I want the truth."

Dark eyes roaming over his hard, cynical expression, his boss shifts and all of a sudden, like the flick of a switch, it’s Eric The Bastard Lawyer seated beside him, not Eric I’ve-Only-Got-Your-Best-Interests-At-Heart. Or maybe they’re just one and the same, Zach can’t tell anymore. And he doesn’t really care to, at any rate.

Cool and unflustered, he juts out his chin and if he’d been wearing a tie, Zach supposes he would have ran a blasé hand along the silky fabric to smooth it. "The truth?" Eric double-checks, blatantly appraising him.

"That’s what I said, isn’t it?"

"Alright, tough guy. I didn’t have a damn Spidey-sense tingling. Neither did the situation call for freakin’ super-powers. You wanna know how I knew?" Smirking like the goddamn jackass he is, Eric shrugs, "Because I installed a baby-monitor two weeks ago."

"You-you what?" Zach stutters.

He did not just hear what he thinks he just heard.

"Yeah. I did. And, you know what else?" Voice drenched in sarcasm, he affirms, "Shocker of shockers, I’m not sorry, either."

"Eric, you-you have no right!" the associate rages, spluttering in incredulity, "That is a gross invasion of privacy! How could you?!"

"Surprisingly easily, actually. I just walked into the store, asked the salesclerk which brand he’d recommend and hey presto, there you go; I had my very own sophisticated walkie talkie."

"You’re a dick."

"And you’re an annoying, ungrateful pain in my backside. I didn’t do it for kicks, Zach. I had my reasons and honestly, I’m under no real obligation to share them with you."

"I think the electrical device you’ve been using to spy on me would beg to differ."

"And I think that until you drop that holier-than-thou attitude, my lips are sealed."

Blowing out an exasperated breath, Zach gathers his composure and asks almost evenly, "Can you please explain to me why you felt the need to put me under surveillance behind my back?"

"You know," Eric purses his lips, "I’m not really feeling it."

"Tough shit," Zach promptly returns. "It’s as close are you’re gonna get."

Sighing in sudden seriousness, his boss scrubs a hand over his face and confides, "Listen, kiddo. I get that you’re angry, and to some extent, I even get that you have every right to be. But try and see this from my perspective for a minute, alright? It wasn’t an easy decision on my part."

Narrowing his eyes, the kid points out, "But you said you didn’t regret it."

"I know what I said and I still stand by it. I won’t apologise. But that doesn’t signify that I wanted to do it. It was purely necessity."

"You lost me. How exactly was such an outrageously extreme measure necessary?"

Eric rolls his eyes. "Actually, it’s not as extreme as you might think, okay? I only switch it on at night, and I mean it when I say that I don’t take it lightly." Pinching the bridge of his nose, he pauses, considering, before continuing, "You were having a lot of nightmares, Zach. Or at least, you weren’t sleeping very peacefully. I was-" He swallows, "I was worried. So I’d…I would-Sometimes-"

Zach cocks his head, frowning slightly as he prompts, "You would…?"

"I’d sing to you, okay?" the other man confesses as if it physically pains him. "I’d sing a few verses of something or another. It never really mattered what. And then you’d… you’d be fine. I tried other crap, too. Like, playing some classical music or soothing meditation tracks so that I wouldn’t be constantly getting up to see if maybe you were unsettled, but nothing worked. Then as soon as I opened my mouth…"

He trails off, mouth tight, and doesn’t finish. But he doesn’t need to.

Feeling an involuntary pang of guilt, Zach wonders, "Why didn’t you tell me? Why don’t I know about this?"

"You’re an exceptionally deep sleeper," Eric says plainly. "And I didn’t really see the sense in bringing it up."

Well, shoot.

There goes his righteous indignation.

Swallowing past the lump in his throat, Zach stares down at his lap and plays with his fingers, before timidly offering, "I’m, uh, I’m sorry, Eric. I had no idea."

Oh, God. Now he feels terrible.

"Tell you what," Eric murmurs, carding his fingers through the boy’s hair and smiling softly. "So long as you promise to sit through Star Trek without saying a single thing about Captain Kirk’s sideburns, we can call it even. Sound fair?"

"Mm.. It’ll be pretty hard…" he drawls, chewing on his bottom lip. "But I think I can manage that. Probably. Maybe. On second thought, you’ve set the bar far too high. No comments? At all? That’s damn near impossible. C’mon, they’re pointy."

Eric grins. "Yeah, yeah. Just try alright?"

"Well, that’s entirely subjective, but sure. Sounds neat-o."


He half-shrugs. "Would you prefer cheato?"

Huffing a breath of amusement, Eric rolls his eyes and changes the subject. "Come on, champ." He bumps his shoulder. "We should probably get you changed out of those wet clothes. It’s almost bright outside, anyway. You get dressed; I’ll tackle this end of things. Then we can go get an early breakfast." Seeing Zach’s face fall, he pastes on nonchalance and entices, "It’ll be great. Look, one time only deal: I’ll make pancakes. Whaddya say?"

Peeking up out of the corner of his eye, the kid hesitantly nods. Zach can’t quite contain his grimace, though, when his bottoms slowly peel away from the sheets as he rises and the damp patch around his crotch becomes visible. Yet Eric seems unperturbed, and it is from him that he draws the strength to shuffle out of his dirty garments and into a clean pair of pants. The relief is instantaneous.

It isn’t until twenty minutes later when his boss - mentor, friend, guardian, hero - is mixing the batter that he recalls another piece of the puzzle that has yet to slot into place.

"Just out of curiosity," Zach pipes up, leaning across the counter and licking a spoon of peanut butter (don’t judge him. He’s in serious need of some comfort food). "Where exactly did you hide it?"

"Hide what?" he questions casually.

"The dead body - what do you think?”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“Don’t play dumb with me. That monitor - where’d you put it?"

The twinkle in Eric’s eye is definitely not in his imagination.

"Under the bed," he finally comes clean, fighting a smile. "You know…" Reaching up and scratching his chin, his boss thoughtfully remarks, "I’m sort of surprised those monsters haven’t already devoured it."

No matter what he says, Eric totally deserves that punch on the arm.


It doesn’t end.

He tries everything and it still. Doesn’t. End.

Every night before bed, Eric kindly reminds him to go to the bathroom and enforces a new rule of no drinks after six. As well as this, Zach is banned from anything caffeine-related, which isn’t as big an adjustment as he expected. The older man has gradually cut down his coffee intake almost without him noticing and made his views on Zach’s energy drink dependence perfectly clear.

When this fails to make any difference, the boy even goes so far as to set an alarm, but he still finds himself blushing furiously every time he wakes up.

Of the seven days that week, Zach stays dry one night. One.

And that was after throwing away all of his drinks that day, dumping them into a drawer at his desk or burying them under his pillow and almost getting himself hooked up to an IV line in the process (he really was not that bad. Eric was just being…Eric). It took a ridiculous amount of persuasion (begging) to discourage the man from taking him straight to the hospital and after having to slurp down every single juice box under his boss’ watchful eye, from the bottom of his heart, Zach sincerely regretted his actions.

Nonplussed, Eric encourages him to visit a doctor or specialist, but he steadfastly refuses. Chalking it up to embarrassment, his boss doesn’t push the issue, but Zach can see he is growing more concerned by the minute.

The associate is scared to sleep, dreading the subsequent morning and flinching whenever he overhears the word ’accident.’

Yet it all pales in comparison to the pivotal moment when Eric sits him down and utters what is possibly the worst phrase of all phrases in the history of phrases, "We need to talk."

Oh, hell no.

Abort, abort!

Placing his palms over his ears, Zach squeezes his eyes shut and sings, "La la la la la la-"


"I can’t hear you!"

"Zach," Eric says sternly, gently removing his hands. "You can’t avoid this forever."

"I can and I will," he petulantly retorts, diving under his covers and curling up into a ball, tucking his knees under his chin. The older man sighs.

"I’m sorry, buddy," And he does sound genuinely remorseful, "But we need to discuss this. I’ve looked into it-"

"Oh, God," he groans.

"-And there’s really nothing to be ashamed of. A lot of people, of all ages, wet the bed for a variety of reasons that are in actuality not within their control. It could be something medical-related or you may just out grow it-"

Who precisely is Eric addressing anyway? The child, the teen, or the grown-ass man?

"But until then," he persists, not without sympathy. "It’s probably best to have some kind of protective measure in place."

Shrinking in on himself and wincing, Zach dares to ask, "What are you saying?"

He doesn’t have to perceive his boss’ face to be aware of his grimace. "I’m talking about disposable underwear," Eric explicates quickly, like ripping off a band-aid. Before the kid has the chance to baulk, he hurries to explain, "Just hear me out. They’re efficient and hygienic, and the only person who will know will be me. It’s not intended to humiliate or punish you in any way. I’m only suggesting this because it’s preventing you from getting a full night’s rest and we’re sort of running low on options, kiddo. But it is entirely your decision. I won’t force it on you. However, I do honestly believe this is the most sensible thing to do."

Voice wobbly and hoarse, Zach mumbles, "M’not a baby."

"I know you’re not, bud," he rushes to assure. "Like I’ve said, many people have this difficulty and it’s not childish whatsoever. If anything, this is actually the mature way to handle the situation because you’d be taking responsibility for managing the problem."

The hardest thing to recognize is that the man does in fact have a point.

It is time to take action, and rather than sitting in the corner feeling sorry for himself, it’s time for Zach to accept his newfound ’condition’ and move on. And the best way to do that is just that.

He needs to try and ’manage the problem.’

And if that includes wearing pull-ups or adult diapers or whatever it need be to get through these excruciating nights, so be it.

So he agrees - inwardly dying a little, naturally, but he needs time to come to terms with it - and Eric practically wilts in relief - he probably expected to have something thrown at his face - and after assuring he was alright for the tenth time, Eric finally leaves him alone - because he is fine. He’s fine. He’s going to be fine again - allowing Zach to paw through his mass of dirty laundry for his cell in peace.

Taking a deep breath, he browses his contacts and hesitates, thumb hovering over the screen, at the name that pops up.

No, he slowly exhales, he can do this. He needs to do this.

It’s about time Zach returned Dr. Slater’s stupid calls.


The appointment he arranged with Dr. Slater for Monday morning can’t come quick enough.

He doesn’t bother with any preamble, simply choosing to barge in, thoughts of this future and his current routine - which evidently has a sell-by date - ricocheting in his mind, and demands, "How am I ever supposed to have a normal life?" It’s the one question he’d give anything to have an answer to. "It feels like I have no control over anything and there’s only so long that I can keep all of…this up."

He doesn’t have to elaborate on the ’this.’

Dr. Slater stands and gives the subject his full, undivided attention, pausing for several moments to carefully consider his response.

"Foremost," he begins, clearing his throat and licking his chapped lips, "My advice to you would be to embrace it." And wasn’t that a stinker. "I won’t lie. The other’s still struggle and this is all very new. But the absolute last thing you should do is act like nothing has changed."

So… do the exact opposite of everything he has been doing?

"Major adjustments are only logical," Dr. Slater explains. "You are not an adult, in body or mind. Hard as it to accept, you’re less than eighty-percent teenager. Zach, you must cater to your body’s needs."

"What? Like, you mean I should walk around casually sucking on a pacifier?" he scoffs with a healthy dose of sarcasm. But his hands are ticking and he’s feeling extremely out of his comfort zone.

"Let me ask you this," the man challenges. "If you were diabetic, would you feel uncomfortable taking insulin?"

Zach rolls his eyes, having seen this very practical outlook coming a mile off. "Of course not."

"Then why should you think of this as being any different? There’s no reason to be ashamed, Mr. Holden. If you need security items, use them - discreetly, if you must. Say for example, you find yourself craving a hug or getting carried away with make-believe, go with it. Repressing these desires will not help. We’ve tested that avenue and it has failed spectacularly. Best case scenario, you have a complete and utter meltdown come naptime. Worst case, you risk disturbing the somewhat delicate balance between the two, resulting in even more indulgence of puerility. You aren’t normal, Zach," he says matter-of-factly, causing the associate to flinch. "You have to be realistic, which, yes, requires making a few life changes that are not altogether ideal."

"Not ideal?" Zach repeats incredulously. "Doc, you’re talking about me giving up my independence, my job, my everything."

"Maybe, maybe not," he shrugs. "With the appropriate measures in place, I do believe that you can manage this. Go back to school, take up something new for a few years. Then you can re-qualify as a lawyer or whatever it is that you wish and-"

"Start all over again?" he interrupts cynically, a bitter taste on his tongue.

Dr. Slater pauses. "Would that really be so bad?"

Yes, a voice deep down cries. It would be the end of everything.

"I never asked for a do-over."

"But still… you got one," he says bluntly. "The only question is, what will you do with it?"



End Chapter 5

Can't Go Back

by: Romano | Complete Story | Last updated Feb 24, 2015


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