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    Defiance19
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
2017 - Fall - The Fallout and Secret Spaces Entry

The Accident - 1. Chapter 1


The rain was coming down in sheets, and Tait had to slow the truck down. Luckily, he should still make good on the arrival time. At that time of the morning, the highway wasn’t busy, but driving in torrential rain was a bitch, especially when he had been driving almost nonstop for the past fourteen hours. He knew he probably should have stopped earlier, but with only three trucks in rotation, he needed to put in the extra time. He turned up the volume on the radio, then grabbed his thermos, hoping the still-hot, strong coffee would keep him awake.
Sitting up straighter, he leaned forward and peered through the windscreen. The wipers only just cleared his view for a few seconds at a time, but he could see dots of light in the distance, and lights meant he was soon approaching civilization. Keeping a steady hand on the wheel, he slowed even more; he had two hours.
Blinking was the first reflex to gradually dull. By the third time he snapped his eyes open, it was too late to make the decision to pull over. While steering away from the wall, he eased up on the gas, trying desperately to lessen the impact. He heard a horrible sound when the fender scraped along the wall. He brought the truck to a shuddering halt on the grass a few hundred feet ahead.
Heart beating wildly, he pulled the flashlight from underneath his seat and staggered out of the truck to check for damage. The retaining wall looked fine from what he could see. Walking around the side, he flashed the light on the truck, running his hand along the side to check for dents, but there was nothing that he could see in the blinding rain. He walked back to the front of the truck, climbed in the cab, found a dry shirt, and settled in.
No doubt about it, he had to get some sleep. He sent a brief message to his manager, Jon to let him know that he would be onsite late, but he would be there. He would make the same call to the client a little later and explain. Shortly before sleep overtook him, he heard the sound of sirens in the distance, and for a brief moment considered moving on. The side of the road was not an ideal place to stop, but if the local cops drove by, he hoped they would understand he needed to rest. A couple of hours of sleep — that was all he needed.

******
Tobias had the radio tuned to a SiriusXM country station. Country music was his guilty pleasure, but tonight he found no satisfaction in the easy strum of the guitar, or the smooth voice of Chris Stapleton. The rain was unyielding, as it did its best to wash the earth clean. He wished it were that easy to wash away the conflict and confusion he was feeling.
As he entered the underpass, the song changed to Keith Urban's The Fighter. Tobias’ hands grabbed the steering wheel tighter. Was the universe conspiring against him, or was the song a sign? Not more than half an hour ago, Jason wanted to fight for him, because he believed Toby – he was always Toby to Jason – deserved better. He should not have been at Jason's, but lately, it was becoming harder and harder to stay away. It was not the first time Jason had pleaded with him to ‘get his happy,' as he put it, but it was the closest Tobias had ever come to just giving in. He wanted nothing more than to just let Jason be there for him; but tonight, those feelings overwhelmed him. It really was not just about Jason, but Tobias could not make any promises, no matter how badly he wanted to, so he had run. This was why he found himself in the early dawn driving into a wall of rain on the other side of an underpass.
Gripping tightly to the steering wheel, he let himself half-listen to the words of the song as he leaned forward to peer over the dashboard. The unexpected impact was hard enough to snap him back into his seat and forward into the steering wheel. He felt bursts of pinpricks on his face right before he registered the car slamming into the sidewall. The devastated look on Jason's face as Toby left his place flashed through his mind. The airbag deployed, and then there was nothing.

******
When Sloan walked into Tobias' hospital room, he was not expecting to find another man – one he did not know – holding Tobias' hand. It looked intimate, and he almost felt like he was intruding. His brain tried to interpret the scene as his feet carried him forward to Tobias' side. The man looked up slowly, as if it caused him pain to do so. He withdrew his hand from Tobias'.
"You must be Sloan." Something in his voice pulled Sloan's eyes away from Tobias' bruised and swollen face.
"I am. Do I know you?"
"You wouldn't. No, we haven’t met. I'm Toby's … I'm a close friend of Tobias'."
"Oh." That was all Sloan could come up with.
Before he could think too long about it and ask another question, the man spoke again.
"I'll give you some time, and let the doctor know you're here." The tone in his voice bordered on patronizing.
Sloan frowned and turned to fully face the friend who still had not given his name. "Thank you, the nurses know that I'm here. Doctor Schweizer is a personal friend."
There was a bit of posturing as the man lingered for a minute more staring at Sloan. He looked like he wanted to say something, but thought better of it. He turned and looked at Tobias' still form before leaving the room. A prickle of unease remained with Sloan after the man left, but he pushed it aside in favor of focusing on Tobias.
Sitting gingerly on the side of the bed, Sloan leaned over and placed a kiss on his partner's forehead. Smoothing Tobias' hair, he kissed him again, this time on his dry, parted lips.

Dr. Martin Schweizer walked into the room to find Sloan slumped over Tobias' bed. He thought the man had to be exhausted after flying from London to be by Tobias’ side. He considered letting him be for a moment, but knowing Sloan, he was expecting Martin to fill him in as soon as possible. He placed his hand on Sloan's shoulder to rouse him and realized his friend had not been sleeping at all.
The relief in Sloan's eyes when he saw Martin was evident. Standing quickly to embrace the doctor, Sloan’s silent tears turned into wrenching sobs. Martin allowed Sloan to cry into the crook of his neck and rubbed his back while Sloan slowly got control of himself.
"I'm so sorry I wasn't there, Tobias," he whispered. "I'm so sorry, but I came as soon as I could. You rest, okay? I'll be right here when you wake up."
"Sorry," he offered in apology, accepting the box of tissues Martin held out to him.
"Are you kidding? I probably owe you a few more than that, considering the number of times you let me bawl on your shoulder."
Sloan sniffed and gave his friend a watery smile. He looked at Tobias, then faced Martin. "How is he doing? Why is he still sleeping? I mean, maybe he is in a coma? Do you know how this accident happened?" He stopped at Martin's raised hand.
“Sloan, slow down.” Martin spoke calmly, exercising his “doctor voice”. Tilting his chin towards the empty chair, he commanded Sloan to sit, which the other man did reluctantly.
"First, Tobias is not in a coma. He's medicated, because he's in a lot of pain."
Sloan nodded, feeling a little bit ridiculous at his outburst.
"He was lucky, Sloan. It could have been worse. His face suffered only superficial cuts from the smashed windscreen. There was no damage to his eyes. There was some internal bleeding from the trauma to his stomach. A CT scan done this morning indicates that the bleeding has stopped on its own, which is a good sign. We’re continuing to monitor the situation, so Tobias is scheduled to have another CT scan within the hour. If Tobias is still bleeding internally, he may require surgery. It's unlikely, but we will cross that bridge if we get there."
Martin waved his hand as he spoke, toward the endless beeping machines hooked up to Tobias. "He's being monitored, so we will know as soon as something changes. He has a couple broken ribs, a broken wrist, and a tibia fracture in his right leg, which definitely requires surgery for repair. You'll notice his leg is held immobile, and it will remain immobilized until then. We will fix that as soon as it's determined whether he needs surgery for the abdominal bleed or not."
Sloan shook his head as he took it all in, reaching for Tobias' good hand. "Lucky? He shouldn't be here at all." Sloan stood and scraped his hands over his face. "I mean, where was he even coming from or going to at that time of the morning?"
"I don't know, buddy." Martin offered, "Maybe his friend could answer that for you? As far as the accident goes, best I could get was that loose shale had fallen from the overpass embankment just as Tobias had the misfortune to be passing through."
Sloan straightened up in his seat. "Did they say who the guy is – the friend? I don't know him."
Martin took a breath before he answered. "One of the paramedics said before Tobias passed out, he was asking for someone named Jason."
Martin paused at the questioning look on Sloan's face. When his friend said nothing, he continued. "Tobias asked them to call Jason, Sloan, so, I assume they're good friends."
What was unsaid was that Tobias had not been asking for him. He had asked for some virtual stranger, and not Sloan – the man with whom he shared a home and life. God. Sloan stood abruptly, realizing the hospital had only called him because he was the emergency contact. Had he not been, when would he have ever known about the accident? Well, Martin would have called once he found out, but Martin was only on the case because Sloan had asked for him specifically.
"I need some air." He pulled roughly at the tie around his neck, which suddenly felt like a noose.
Martin stopped his clawing by clasping his hand onto Sloan's shoulder. Before either man could say a word, a low groan turned their attention to the direction of the sound. Swift movements brought Sloan back to Tobias' bedside.
"Tobias? Can you hear me?" Sloan's voice beckoned Tobias, while his fingers smoothed out his face. "Tobias…please."
"Sloanie?" Tobias whispered, before slowly blinking his eyes open.
Sloan did not even cringe at the hated nickname, because it meant that Tobias was calling for him. Tobias sounded drowsy, and Sloan reassuringly grabbed his hand and leaned toward Tobias. "Yes, it's me. I'm here. You're in the hospital, but you're going to be okay. "
"Mmm. Okay." Tobias cast an unfocussed stare at Sloan. "You came," he stated. Then confusion clouded his face. "Oh, God, Jason? Is he here, did they call him?"
Sloan looked aghast at Tobias. The hand holding Tobias' shook slightly as he tried to come up with a response. Martin put down the chart that he had been holding and came around the bed to stand next to Sloan.
"If you mean your friend," he intervened, "then yes, he was here shortly after they brought you in. He stayed with you for a long time. I'm sure he knows you're in good hands with Sloan here now." Martin pulled his stethoscope from the pocket of his scrubs. "Let's check you out, okay?"
Sloan slid off the bed with a grateful smile to his friend and went to stand at the window. His thoughts drowned out the murmurs between Martin and Tobias. He should pay attention to what they were saying, but that uneasy feeling from earlier was back full force. It was in the way Tobias had asked for Jason, almost as if he was worried more about him.
Why was Jason so important to Tobias? How had Sloan not heard the name before? Were they new friends, not-so new friends, closer than friends? Sloan did not want to settle on the answer that was nudging at him. Tobias would never cheat, would he? Sloan's job took him out of the country a lot and for extended periods. Tobias could certainly find the time, but that was not Tobias.
He sighed deeply. Staring out at the too-bright landscape wasn't likely to give him answers or make him feel any less perturbed, and he was too tired to think. It might be afternoon, but his body clock was still on London time. What he needed was a long, hot shower and sleep.
"….You'll most likely be on schedule for surgery tomorrow." Martin paused and glanced at his watch. "The rest, we'll talk about after." He looked up at Sloan, who had approached them. "He's asking about discharge already."
Sloan's posture was stiff as he regarded Tobias. Without breaking eye contact, he asked Martin. "He's going to be okay though, right? And the surgeon tomorrow, you know him?"
"He will be in some pain, and it is surgery, but he's going to be fine, Sloan. The ortho surgeon, she is one of the best."
"He is right here, you know." Tobias griped as Martin escaped the room.
Sloan allowed himself to smile, though it didn't quite meet his eyes. He reached over and rubbed his thumb over Tobias' cheek and traced his chin.
"I need to sleep for a while. I would stay here, but I also need a shower. Besides, Martin says you'll be asleep most of the time anyway." At Tobias' nod, he leaned down and pressed their lips together for a long while, before giving in to a proper kiss. The tears chased each other down his cheeks and across his nose.
"I was so scared, Tobias. I didn't know what to think at first. I thought I'd lost you. I—" he stopped, fearing he had said too much, and not wanting to scare Tobias either.
"Sloan…."
Sloan straightened up and he wiped the drops from his face. The way Tobias called his name reminded him too much of when Tobias was about to say something he thought Sloan would be upset about. Whatever Tobias might have wanted to say, he was not ready to hear.
"I'm sorry. I shouldn't be … I'll be back tomorrow."
With a quick squeeze of Tobias' hand, he hurriedly left the room. Martin was waiting on the other side of the door.
"You okay, buddy?"
A short laugh burst from Sloan. "I don't know." He rubbed the back of his neck as he watched his friend. "Thanks, Marty. I just need to sleep, I think. If anything changes, let me know?"
"You got it. And Sloan, I'm here if you need me." He watched as his friend walked down the corridor and turned toward the elevators. As Martin turned back around, his eyes lit on Tobias' friend, holding a cup of coffee.
Against his better judgment, Martin strode back to Tobias' hospital room. As Martin entered the room, Tobias looked up and a flash of shame crossed his face before he schooled his expression.
"Is Sloan gone?" he asked Martin, who stood just inside the door.
Martin shuffled his feet and glared at Tobias. "Listen, I'm just going to say this as a friend. I don't know what's going on with you, but Sloan is my best friend. On top of that, he's a great guy, and if I know one thing, it's that he loves you – completely. He flew many hours to be here as quickly as he could. He'll barely admit to it, but that call had to scare the shit out of him, and Sloan won't know what to do with all that emotion. So please, try not to flaunt your friend in his face so much."
"You don't know anything about that, Martin." Tobias' voice sounded strained even to his own ears.
"Clearly neither does Sloan." Martin shot back and he turned to leave.
"I'm sorry, okay?"
Looking over his shoulder at Tobias, Martin's expression softened a bit. "Yeah well, I'm not the one you should be apologizing to, and it says a lot that there's even something to apologize for. Get some rest."

Morning came quicker than Sloan would have liked. He checked in with the hospital to make sure the night had passed uneventfully, and found out the second CT scan had also come back clear. Tobias’ surgery had been planned for the late morning. He decided against calling Tobias, but planned to be there before his surgery time.
Having decided on a small breakfast, he buttered a roll and was pouring himself some coffee when his phone buzzed on the kitchen counter. In his haste to grab it, hot coffee sloshed over his knuckles. He ignored the burn and answered the call without looking at the ID.
"This is Sloan."
"You want to tell me why the London office is saying that you won't be available for the next few weeks?"
Shit! Sloan's stomach turned at the sound of disapproval in his dad's voice. He was not ready to deal with him, especially now.
"Dad, hi…. I'm sure they told you Tobias was in a really bad accident. I was going to call you after he went into surgery later today."
"Son, I'm sorry about Tobias. But he is in a good hospital, right"
"Yes, he…."
"So he is getting the best possible care, which is more than I can say about our investors."
Sloan pulled the phone away from his ear and stared at it, torn between what his father was saying and at his tone.
"Dad, did you just suggest that I should not be at Tobias' side right now? Because I'm telling you right now that is never going to happen."
His father responded heatedly. "What good are you going to be to him there – just standing around. You are the face of this business, Sloan. You represent me. What good is that when you leave important clients stranded to watch your boyfriend recover from an accident?"
Sloan took a deep breath. Fighting with his father was not on the list of things he planned to do today. He placed the cup with the now tepid coffee in the sink, flipped the brewer switch off, and stormed toward the front door grabbing his keys as he went.
"Dad," he started, trying not to let his anger seep through. "Mr. Akiyama and his partners are in good hands with Phillip. Before I left, I explained what happened, and he knows how to reach me. Phillip was at every meeting, so he knows what he's doing. The clients are as comfortable with Phillip as they are with me."
Hoping his calm manner was equally calming to his dad, he slid into his car. "When I left, everything was going as it should. I don't see any reason why it shouldn't continue that way. You trust me, right?"
"You know I do, it's just…."
"It's just why you let me take on as much as I have. I know what I'm doing, Dad. I've never let you down, and I won't start now."
"See that you don't. Forward me Tobias’ information; I’ll send flowers."
There was the unmistakable silence of disconnection, and Sloan sighed.
"I love you too, Dad," he said into the air, before starting the car and heading to the hospital. He really was not upset with his father, because he understood that he was coming from a good place.
Bernard had always reminded Sloan of what it was like for him growing up in a house so small, he had to share a bedroom with his sister. He had never shed the stigma and shame of being poor. Bernard's father had served people in a country club where their family wouldn’t be invited. Sometimes, Bernard was in a classroom with the children of those men and women and had borne the teasing that came with being the son of the help. It didn't matter how proud their parents had raised him and his sister to be, Bernard had sworn that he would be better. He'd never wanted to see pity or worse, when people looked at him. Being able to provide for his family's every need, and then some, had stoked a fire in him to become the man he now was. He was a brilliant, sought-after architect, his own boss and in control of his own future. He was damned if his son didn't learn for himself too. Sloan might end up with the company, but his father made sure he was going to earn it.
To that end, Bernard groomed Sloan to work hard. He needn't have worried though, because Sloan inherited the love of design and architecture, and the passion for his father's business. His mother used to joke if it weren't for their age difference, she wouldn't be able to tell them apart.
Sloan had never minded learning everything from the ground up. The long hours and the weeks or months away when he traveled were sometimes taxing and inconvenient. Time zones made connecting with Tobias difficult at best, so their Skype sessions were not always productive or conducive to their relationship. At a time like this though, he was thankful that he could have Tobias in a great hospital with the best care. Not having to worry about hospital bills, and paying for the physical therapy that would follow, was an added bonus he could definitely appreciate.
This proved everything his father had been trying to teach him. He could not feel badly about the times he had to leave Tobias, because it meant that now he could afford to take care of him when he needed to. That thought warmed Sloan and filled him with pride. He cast his fear of everything else to the back of his mind: he was what Tobias needed.
A short time later, Sloan arrived at the hospital, and handed his keys to the valet. By the time he made it up to the room, he had just enough time to greet and kiss Tobias, then promise he'd be waiting for him after surgery. He watched them wheel Tobias away before making his way to the visiting room. There was nothing to do now but wait.

******
It was late morning when Tait was awakened by the incessant ringing of his phone. As soon as he grabbed it from the side table, it stopped. Groaning, he looked at the screen, and then quickly frowned when he noticed he'd had a number of missed calls from his manager, Jon. Before he could scroll through the calls, the phone rang again. He didn't recognize the number, but swiped at the screen to accept the call anyway.
"Hello?" he answered cautiously.
"Morning. I'm looking for Mr. Tait Whitfield, of Whitfield Movers. Is this him?" The voice on the line was unfamiliar and all business.
"Yes, this is me … I mean, I am him." Tait threw his thin blanket fully off his legs and stood. "I'm sorry. I'm Tait Whitfield. How can I help you?"
"Mr. Whitfield, I'm Officer Walter Wick. We have reason to believe that one of your vehicles was involved in an accident early this morning. I was hoping you would be able to help us out by answering a few questions."
"An accident? How? Wait…. Did you say this morning?" Tait's body went rigid. It wasn't possible, was it?
"Yes. Sir, if you could come down to the 18th Precinct to answer some questions, so we can piece together what happened, that would be great. I can answer any questions you have then too."
"Okay." Tait's response was automatic, his mind speeding ahead.
"Do you need us to send a car?" Officer Wick asked.
"No, no. I can be there within the hour."
As soon as he disconnected from the officer, he called Jon.
"Boss," Jon answered, his relief evident. "I have been trying to call. The Hanover truck's been stopped. The guy said something about an accident and it’s being detained." Jon sounded irritated.
"Yeah, I'm sorry, Jon. I crashed hard after I left you – didn't hear the phone. An Officer Wick just called me."
"You know what this is about, boss?"
"If it's what I'm thinking, I might have a pretty good idea. I'm sorry you had to deal with that though. I'm going down to the 18th, so I'll know for sure."
Tait leaned against the wall to hold himself up as the gravity of the situation fully formed.
"Wait boss, what do you think happened?"
"I think it might have been me in the accident." Tait blew out a breath. "I don't know what happened, but before I pulled over to sleep, I hit a wall. The truck was scratched – that was all I saw – and it was raining so hard. But if they stopped the truck—" "Mierda."
"Yeah," Jon agreed. "Fuck."
A quick look at the time let Tait know he had to get moving, or he'd be late.
"Listen, Jon, you do whatever they ask you to on your end. I'll let you know exactly what is what once I have all the information. Thanks, man."
After a few more seconds of back and forth with Jon, Tait hastily prepared himself to get to the precinct. Once there, he was shown into a small room to wait for Officer Wick. After what seemed like an hour of pacing, but in reality was only ten minutes, Officer Wick entered the room. They exchanged a brief introduction and handshake, and then Officer Wick sat in one of the steel chairs and pointed to the other for Tait to do the same.
"Am I going to be arrested?" Tait blurted. The hand he had firmly placed on his knee did little to keep his leg from shaking.
Wick paused from leafing through his papers and stared at Tait with a raised eyebrow.
"Right now," he drawled, "I just want to ask some questions. Then you can tell me why you think you'll be arrested."
Wick's voice was friendly, but his eyes were steely as he searched Tait's face. An uncomfortable silence passed before he resumed talking.
Tait's worst fears were confirmed. Upon learning he was indeed responsible for causing a serious accident, he requested his lawyer. Thankfully, there were no lives lost, but the other driver was seriously hurt. Hours later, Tait had handed off his business insurance and info before he was allowed to leave with a charge of negligence filed against him.
He refused to give into the panic that threatened to overtake him. His lawyer had given him the worst-case scenario, that the other driver would sue him in a civil suit. Tait would have to wait and see what the other driver wanted to do. If by chance, he could talk the man into some kind of settlement, his insurance would likely cover everything, but it would leave Tait with little more than he had started with just over a year ago. If the guy decided to sue Tait and his company – no way was he ready to think about that yet.
He had to call Jon and bring him up to speed on everything. Then he had to call the client, who was already forgiving about the late start, but now had to be told his furnishings would arrive a few days later than promised.
Tait dreaded this part. His business was new, and he had started out well, but this was a big hit. He had used most of his savings to get started. He was not operating in the black yet, and this could wipe him out completely. Then, there were the people he worked with, and the people who worked for him that he was worried about if this went sideways: a stupid decision driving so tired. He planned to be prepared for the worst, while hoping for the best.

******
It was easy to lose track of time in the waiting room, but about an hour had passed since Tobias had been taken into surgery. Sloan got lost in work, following up with Phillip and his investors. Phillip was doing the part of the job Sloan loved least. Explaining the contracts and going over the technical aspects was tedious. He hoped to be back by the time they broke ground, as this was the company's sixth international project, and the hardest-won. Sloan would hate to leave Tobias in less than good health when the time came to oversee the building construction.
The opening door drew his attention away from the phone, and he realized he had not given more thought to the man who’d been in Tobias's room the day before. He watched Jason hesitate, trying to decide if he should enter or not. Sloan didn't feel guilty about the man's discomfort, but if he was Tobias' friend, Tobias would expect Sloan to be accommodating.
"I suppose you are worried about him," Sloan stated, and watched as surprise flitted across Jason's face.
"Yes. Um … have you heard anything yet?" Jason closed the door and walked closer to Sloan.
Sloan ignored the question as he stood and stuck his hand out. "I don't think we've had a proper introduction. Sloan Balcke. But you knew that, so I'm at a disadvantage."
Jason gripped Sloan's hand in a firm handshake. "Even if I didn't know Toby, your reputation precedes you. There are buildings that bear your name, not to mention the write-ups in business weekly." He released Sloan's hand and stepped back. "Jason Taylor."
"How do you know Tobias?"
Jason's cheeks reddened slightly under Sloan's scrutiny, but he held Sloan's stare as he answered.
"A funny story actually. We literally bumped into each other at Gristedes while trying to grab the last tub of coconut pineapple ice cream from the freezer." A smile tilted the corners of Jason's mouth at the memory. "He told me his pregnant wife would kill him if she didn't have it."
Sloan snorted.
"Yeah, I would have believed him if he didn't look like the thought alone made him sick."
"So, how did you go from that to being the one he calls to the hospital?" There was no mistaking the hostility in Sloan's voice.
Jason scratched his head. "Listen, I think he asked for me because I was probably the last person he saw before the accident."
There was no point in lying about that, but judging by the look on Sloan's face, Jason got the feeling that it was not what Sloan was expecting.
"Maybe we should talk," he said to Sloan.
"That's the last thing I think we should do," Sloan countered.
"Believe it or not, I'm not here to cause trouble. I had no idea Toby would ask them to call me."
"So why are you here, Jason? Help me understand, why you, who met my boyfriend haggling over ice cream – he fucking hates coconut, by the way. Tell me why he asks for you, worries for you, while I worry about him."
Sloan was breathing hard. He did not realize his voice had risen, or that he had taken several steps closer to Jason. Neither one noticed the other occupants in the room trying pointedly to ignore them.
"Maybe, because you're never around, and you're still consumed by work even when you are. Maybe, Sloan, if you would take the time when you are home to talk to Toby, you'd see he's less happy than you think. That he's not as strong as you think he is, and he hates when you leave him for so long."
"What are you even talking about?" Sloan shouted. "Tobias is fine. He would tell me if he wasn't."
Even as he was saying it, Sloan flashed back to the memory of the last time he and Tobias had dinner. There was something bothering Tobias, and he had wanted to ask, but answered a phone call instead. By the time he was done, the moment had passed.
"Or," Jason argued, "you allow yourself to see only what you want to see. Just like you don’t know Toby likes coconut pineapple ice cream. He only gets it when you're not around, because you hate it."
They had not moved from each other's space, and Jason could feel the intensity of Sloan's stare bearing down on him.
‘So what, you bond over ice cream, find out the man's a little lonely and move in?"
"I meant what I said before. I'm not here to cause trouble. I came for Toby and if he asks me to go away, I will. And, as for me moving in, there wouldn't be room for me if you hadn't left the door open." Jason took a step back and turned to the door.
"You love him." It was more of a statement than a question, but it stopped Jason. "Did you … are you sleeping with him?"
Jason turned to face Sloan. The pain in the other man's face was the only thing that made him answer.
"I would have. In a heartbeat if he let me. I might not think you deserve him, but he was completely loyal to you."
Before either could move on from that, the door opened. Martin came in followed by another doctor. Sloan turned his attention fully to them.
"Is he okay?" Sloan rushed out. “I’m his partner, Sloan Balcke.”
The other doctor stepped ahead of Martin. "Yes, he is doing well. Mr. Balcke, I'm Dr. Elaine Cox, I performed the surgery on Mr. Hall. He is in recovery and someone will come to tell you when you can see him. There were no complications, and everything went as expected. We placed pins to stabilize the bones. We'll keep him here for about a week, and then he is looking at a six-to-eight-week timeframe for recovery."
She looked from Sloan to Jason, and Sloan found himself following her sight. Jason had remained in the background quietly, but Sloan could see relief on his face.
"Do you have any questions?"
That had to be a rote question, because she looked like she already had a foot outside the door. Sloan let her leave with a shake of his head and a grateful thank you.
Jason took that as his cue to leave also and made for the door. Again, Sloan stopped him, this time with a hand to his arm.
"Jason … " He had no idea what he was going to say to the guy.
"Look, Sloan, this is probably not the best time to do this. You should probably talk to Toby anyway. I'll get out of your way."
As soon as the door closed, Sloan turned to Martin. The doctor questioned, "Toby?"

******
It was three days later when Tait made his way to the hospital. His lawyer had been contacted by with Tobias Hall's people, and to Tait's surprise, Mr. Hall was not going to sue, and they had agreed to a settlement out of court. Tait had wanted to thank him personally.
He got off the elevator and followed the arrows pointing to the direction of Tobias’ hospital room. Wiping his hands nervously on his jeans, he approached the door and was startled to a stop by the loud voice coming from the room.
"You had a good plan, Sloan. You told me how our life was going to be, but you stopped including me in those plans."
Tait knew it was wrong, and that he should just turn around and come back later, but he stayed and listened at the door.
"You never said you were unhappy with what I was doing, Tobias. You let me believe you were happy, and that we were fine."
"I know, and I'm sorry. I own that. But Sloan, you started going away more often and for longer periods. I started feeling like a single guy. I wasn't sure if it was me you were running from at first. Then you said you were building a future for us, and I loved you for it, but...."
"So when did you decide you don’t love me anymore?"
Tait was paralyzed. He definitely should not be listening to this, but he also couldn’t talk himself out of it. For some irrational reason, he felt like he was to blame. He nudged the door slightly open to see into the room, but stayed hidden from view. It didn't matter, because Sloan – it had to be him, because Tobias was the injured party – had his back to him and blocked his view of anything else. Still, they could not hide the misery in their voices.
"It was not that simple, Sloan. At first, I missed you so much that when you were home, I didn't want to waste our time together arguing. But, you stopped being present, you know. I told myself it was me being insecure. That I was still your priority even when it felt like you were more concerned about further expanding the company, and giving in to your dad at every turn. The more you did, the more he threw at you. You never questioned it or asked me how I felt about you taking on so much. It was your job, but it affected me too. I was losing me, fading into the background, and you didn't even notice."
"But, Tobias," Sloan interrupted, "don’t you see, that was for us. I saw it as a way to get us where we wanted, faster. If I finally got the company to a place where Dad was comfortable, I’d be able to travel less and we’d be stable."
"Does that even make sense to you, Sloan? I mean, where was it going to end? It's not as if we couldn't live independently of your father now. What is it? What is the limit that you need to get to, in order to say, you're done? Your career took precedence over everything, including our lives. Your father respects you for it, and so do I, but I needed more. I needed you, here, planning our lives together."
Tobias took a pause and then continued in a resigned voice. “We had a good life, Sloan, but somewhere along the line, it changed and neither of us cared enough to talk about it.”
Tait saw Sloan's shoulders fall in defeat.
"I don't know, Tobias. I really thought that I was putting you first. You are my priority. I don't know how else I could have shown you that I wanted to share my life with you. Now you're telling me you don't want that. That you don't want me? Oh … God."
Sloan clasped both his hands behind his neck and hung his head. Tait took a step to the side when it looked like he was going to turn around.
"So, this guy, Jason. He thinks I’m a horrible person, thank you for that. He is who you want?"
"Don't say it like that." Tobias' voice got softer. "Jason is…."
"It's like you had this other life going on, and the whole time, I was living for ours. I never figured you for a cheater."
"I didn't cheat, Sloan. I never slept with him. I kissed him once."
"Let me finish, and don’t do that."
Tait watched as Sloan pulled the chair next to the bed and sat with his elbows on his knees.
"Not sleeping with him means nothing. I saw how intimately he looked at you. I heard it in your voice when you asked for him. I almost wish you had slept with him – I could forgive that. You gave to him, shared with him, parts of you I thought were meant for me. I have to wonder what else you’ve kept secret. I love you, Tobias. I get that I was short-sighted, and I see it now; how I was absent from our relationship. Yes, I failed you, but you could have called me on it anytime. You could have given me a chance to make it better, make it right. Instead, you checked out, and you took the choice away from me. So, as much as you want to blame me for all of this, I'm not the one ready to move on with another guy who he's in love with."
Tait's heart dropped. He wondered if the two men would have been able to work things out without it coming to this. Even though, there was another person involved, Tait could not stop thinking of himself as the cause of the trouble between the two men.
"Sloan, I'm sorry." At Sloan's recoil, Tobias continued, "I know that doesn't make it better, and I wasn't trying to blame it all on you. I guess, I just let everything build until I was overwhelmed. I just didn't want to be so lonely all the time. Then Jason happened, and before I knew it, I was falling for him."
When Tobias said the words, Tait saw Sloan’s reaction, and it was as if Sloan had tumbled off a cliff. Tait backed away from the door having heard enough and needing to find a place to clear his head. He got into the elevator with the intention of heading to the cafeteria.

******
Sloan made his way outside of the hospital, and headed for the bench that was hidden in the shade off the side of the building. To his dismay, there was another person sitting there, but he didn't care to turn around. The man looked up as he drew close, and Sloan nodded hello as he sat. As the minutes ticked past, he turned over the conversation with Tobias in his head.
"You look like someone kicked your puppy."
Sloan turned to the man and hesitated before he answered. "You could say that."
"Bad news?" Tait felt like an ass, but it wasn't as if he could tell Sloan he knew what was troubling him.
"Yes, but not the way you're thinking. Nobody died. You?"
”Oh. No, I'm here to visit someone actually. He was busy, so I thought I'd wait out here." He extended his hand toward Sloan. "I'm Tait."
"Sloan." Tait had a warm, firm grip. His father always said that you could tell a lot about a man by his handshake. He huffed a laugh, letting go of Tait.
"What? What's so funny?" Tait asked.
Sloan sighed. "I just had a thought about my father, and it's ironic I think of him now in light of what just happened, and a conversation I just had."
”You lost me. You don't have to explain though." Tait sat back leaning his side against the bench, but still facing Sloan.
Sloan studied the man next to him. He could not explain what compelled him, but the next thing he knew, he found himself baring his soul to Tait.
"The thing is, in hindsight, I knew everything wasn't right, but I convinced myself that I imagined it. Tobias was right – I cared more about my projects. But, it wasn't as if I didn't love him."
"Look, it's been a long time since I've been in a relationship with anyone. It seems to me that although you thought you were doing the right thing for you and Tobias, you were always choosing your work, or your father over him. That's hard you know, to always feel like you come in second. Love should draw you together not take away from either of you." Tait looked up to find Sloan looking at him, but he didn't look offended. "Talking about it would have probably solved a lot, or saved you some grief. But, that's neither here nor there now. Is it?"
"I get my part in all this. I'm just…angry: at him; at myself; at the person who caused the accident. But then, who knows how long it would have taken him to tell me. I wouldn’t have known until after he was in deeper with Jason, because Toby, that’s what Jason calls him, doesn’t love me. Fuck!" Sloan shot up from the bench.
"Sorry I dumped all of this on you. You don't know me from Adam."
"Yeah, but I sort of asked. No worries, though. I hope you'll be okay."
"Thanks, I have to run. I kind of left Tobias in a hurry, and I don't want to leave with him thinking that I'm mad at him. How fucked is that?"
"That's not fucked at all. You love him. Take it easy."
Sloan walked away, his heart aching with regret. The regret of things that were not said; things he hadn't allowed himself to acknowledge. He really thought he and Tobias were doing okay. Hurt and anger waged a war inside him. Part of him knew how big a role he played in the breakdown of this relationship with Tobias. He was reluctant to answer aloud the question of what he would change even to himself, but knowing the truth, shattered his heart even more.
He would just go up and apologize to Tobias. Maybe given time, their friendship would not suffer the same fate as their relationship.

******
Tait watched Sloan go, and he considered leaving for home himself. The look on Sloan's face, and the anguish in his voice as he talked to Tait kept tugging at him. One conversation did not make them friends, but there was no way he could keep his identity from Sloan. The man’s world had turned upside down in a week, and he deserved some honesty. He might kick Tait out, or convince his boyfriend to sue him after all, but it was a chance he would take. He didn’t deserve an easy pass while Tobias and Sloan were in turmoil.
Logical thinking or not, he had inadvertently been the catalyst for the impending breakup of a relationship. In addition, because of Tobias, he wasn't going to be bankrupt. His insurance was going to skyrocket, and there was a hefty fine to pay on the negligence charge – he would be okay. Sloan might hurt for a while, but Tait instinctively knew that Sloan would find consolation in his work. Tobias it seemed would be okay, and would not be alone during his recuperation. The right thing to do would be to go up to the room, ask forgiveness of both men, express his deep regret and thank Tobias. Then he would deal with whatever Sloan felt about him afterward.
As he let his feet guide him back through the hospital, he continued to reflect on the uninvited disorder that the one avoidable accident had brought. Their whole world had shifted as a result, with no warning. It was terrible, the outcome, but it could have been worse. He definitely learned his lesson about driving long hours when he knew he was tired, so he only hoped that in the end, they'd use this as a second chance to all make better choices.


 

I'd like to thank and express my immense gratitude to Reader1810 and AC Benus, for the time they took to read and edit this piece. I appreciate you both so much.

Thank you to Val, also, as she was my anthology proof editor.

 

Thank you for reading this,, if you would like to let me know what you thought, please leave a comment. One of the emoji expressions works too. :*)

Copyright © 2017 Defiance19; All Rights Reserved.
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
2017 - Fall - The Fallout and Secret Spaces Entry
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Chapter Comments



Tobias is a bitch I mean if he truly loved Sloan he would have talked to him made it work,but no run to the nearest man. Like I said bitch. 

Edited by Crazyd1965
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9 hours ago, Crazyd1965 said:

Tobias is a bitch I mean if he truly loved Sloan he would have talked to him made it work,but no run to the nearest man. Like I said bitch. 

Well about Tobias... Lucky for Sloan then. Lol. 

Thank you so much for taking the time to read this. I appreciate you leaving a comment too. :) 

 

 

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2 hours ago, BHopper2 said:

Excellent work, Agent D. Excellent work!

You talk pretty to me, A.. 

 

Thank you so much for reading. It was really nice of you to leave a story review too. I appreciate it and you. xo

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Like Tait, I thought that he got lucky and managed to away with his drowsy driving. I’m easily confused and it took me a while to figure out who Tobias, Jason, and Sloan (kind of a nouveau riche kind of name, if you ask me) were. But the characters all come together well.  ;-)

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8 hours ago, droughtquake said:

Like Tait, I thought that he got lucky and managed to away with his drowsy driving. I’m easily confused and it took me a while to figure out who Tobias, Jason, and Sloan (kind of a nouveau riche kind of name, if you ask me) were. But the characters all come together well.  ;-)

I tend to borrow names from my family and friends. Sloan only wishes he was nouveau riche.. He also hates Sloanie so I had to do that. Lol. 

 

I appreciate you reading this little story Drought.. I’m sorry for the confusion, but happy you worked it out. Thank you my friend. :) 

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4 hours ago, deville said:

Fantastic story, if you don’t communicate or aren’t present in your relationship , you really can’t be surprised when the moment to say your piece or act on your feelings has passed. It may be a story but all of it is so very real . Really turbulent , with a hint of plain sailing for all in the future. Left me feeling surprisingly upbeat ! 

This is very true. Relationships don’t work if one is absent from it.

Thank you for reading this, deville. Your comments made me feel upbeat. I really appreciate your response to the story.. :) 

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It's all too easy to drift apart when life takes over. Both parties have a responsibility to keep an eye on things and act if something is wrong. Difficult though if one party is in the dark. Although, I think Sloan was not as oblivious as he likes to tell himself right now. Who knows what the future will bring these guys?

 

Interesting that not many people went after Jason. I think he's been upfront and honest, so I have no beef with him. Another discussion here on GA gave me the impression many people believe a relationship means the pair is off limits for expressed interest. 

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This is a fantastic slice of what could be real, actual. The pain of Tobias and Sloan drifting apart is as painful as Tobias’ injuries. Beautifully written, utterly convincing. And there is a bit of hope remaining...

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