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    Demiurge
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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.

Mental Health will be discussed. I will flag specific chapters where it is heavier than others

I Hate This Town - 15. Chapter 15: Hike

Upon further reflection, Alec couldn’t believe he’d stood up for himself finally. He felt a little guilty and a slight twinge of shame. Was it wrong that he was excited? Was it weird that he couldn’t wait to see River to tell him? There was something wrong there. He propped his elbow on the car door and rested his cheek against his hand as he drove. This was an issue he should probably pick apart. An unhealthy reaction that needed dissecting. He hummed softly and replayed the conversation in his head. Well, he wasn’t sure if it could even be considered a real conversation. It hadn’t been a true give and take. His mother had dominated the first conversation and him the second.

Still, even though it may be wrong, Alec was proud of himself. He hadn’t run. He hadn’t let his mother get away with her cruel treatment. The problem with people-he’d learned after all these years-was that if you allowed them to treat you a certain way, they were apt to continue to do so. His mother had been getting away with the yelling, belittling, and cruelty for most of Alec’s life and he wasn’t her only victim. His father was as well, and Alec refused to let her beat him down. His father had nothing left of the person he was when Alec was younger. Mae had dragged all his life and hope out of him. He’d let her. Henry had stood by her side and let her rip away everything that made him, him.

Alec shook his head, banishing his negative thoughts as they attempted to dim his surprisingly bright mood. He had planned for a long, arduous day. He thought he’d be stuck in the hospital for hours, but it wasn’t even noon and he had almost reached Sunny Side already. What the heck were he and River going to do the rest of the day? Maybe Julie would want to do something? He sent a quick text and tapped his fingers against the wheel as he turned on the exit toward his hometown. The hospital was the next town over. A mere fifteen-minute drive. The hotel was another twenty minutes away still. If River didn’t answer, he could waste time around town?

When his phone chimed, the corner of his lips downturned. River and his mother were going to be out all day. River had also thought Alec was going to be busy. He rubbed his cheek as he drove down Sunny Side’s main street. His eyes fell on a familiar white bakery, black accents still crisp and neat. It was risky, but then, last night had gone okay. He and Finn had managed to stay civil. Maybe this would be okay too? Alec took a deep breath and let his body take control. He turned into a small parking lot beside the building and sat in the vehicle, staring at the wall.

He wasn’t just having second thoughts. Now he was thinking this was a terrible idea. Just because they’d had one positive interaction didn’t mean they were going to be best friends now. Last night hadn’t been planned and was in a crowded public place. What was Finn going to do? Throw a beer mug at Alec and scream? Cry? No way. He wasn’t the type to create a scene in public. Finn also wasn’t that cruel. Even when they’d ended things, he’d shut down and acted cold, but he’d never been aggressive or violent.

Shaking his head, Alec forced himself from the SUV. He stuffed his hands in his pockets and trudged toward the front of the store. He freed a hand to tug open the door and was hit with a wave of nostalgia that was scented with bread, sugar, and whatever else the Larsons used to flavor their baked goods. The bell rang out above his head the same way it had a decade ago. Alec was almost transported back in time. Everything but a small sitting area to his left was the exact same. It was almost wild.

“Hi there.” A petite brunette smiled at him from the counter and he returned it. She had her long hair in a ponytail and wore simple jeans and a white t-shirt under a black apron. Her hazel eyes were friendly as they swept over Alec, “What can I help you with?”

“Uh, I’m just looking I guess…” Alec shrugged, suddenly a bit shy when there was no one present he knew. He drifted around the store, noting small differences in the displays and goods before a voice almost startled him out of his body.

“Hol-lee shit! Jailbait!” Alec turned to smile at the blond who’d appeared behind the counter next to the woman, “What the hell are you doing here?”

“Uh, hey Milo.” Alec waved awkwardly and let his hand drop as the other man hurried around the display. Alec averted his eyes from the heavy limp in Milo’s steps.

“Milo, your cane…” The woman mumbled softly.

“I’m fine! Jailbait will save me if I fall, right?” Milo grinned and Alec found himself wrapped in a bear hug, “The prodigal son returns! The West Coast Big shot!”

Alec felt his cheeks heating a bit as he hugged Milo back. He hadn’t ever completely done away with his aversion to physical contact, but he didn’t react as violently as an adult. This was Milo. There was nothing to be afraid of here. The man was warm and kind. Just like his brother. If Alec was being honest, it felt nice. He had needed the tiny amount of physical comfort after the few days he’d weathered.

“Man, I gotta tell you, when Finn told us you were leaving, I was terrified. Our little Alec out on his own halfway across the country? Not that we didn’t have faith in you! Finn was always telling us how smart you were, how amazing, but what if you needed us!? We were so far away!”

Alec blinked up at the man, at a loss for words. The Larsons were not a mean or malicious tribe. He had known that they’d still be kind to him no matter what, but this was beyond anything he’d expected. They’d been worried? Or at least Milo had? Right after the man had been so gravely injured? It was enough to make Alec’s eyes water. He blinked again, harder and took a shaky breath.

“I appreciate that, Milo. It was hard, but we made it work. River and I came out on top.” Alec smiled softly up at the other man.

Milo shifted and Alec watched him wince, “Come sit over here man! I haven’t talked to you in 900 years and I missed you!”

Alec followed slowly as Milo limped over to one of the small tables. He sat down heavily and Alec took the chair across from him. He was trying his hardest not to pity the man or look at him differently than he would look at any other. That wasn’t right. Milo had been injured fighting for his country and should be treated with respect. Alec nodded slightly to himself and smiled at the blond.

“You can ask.” Milo grinned, head tilting to the side as he snickered.

“What do you mean?” Alec frowned slightly.

“About the limp. It’s rough today. There’s no way you didn’t notice.”

“Does it bother you a lot?” Alec asked, upset.

“I mean it hurts most of the time, but I manage. Can’t work out as much as I used to, but like with everything else, I manage.” Milo shrugged.

“We’re just happy he was able to walk again.” The brunette said from the other side of the room.

“Yeah, I’m not as fast but I can promise you,” Milo narrowed his eyes and waggled his eyebrows, “I’m still dangerous.”

“Dangerously stupid.” Came a third voice after the front door’s bell dinged. Alec stiffened. Milo smirked knowingly and tracked movement behind Alec.

Well, he had told himself that it was risky. Still, the chances of Finn coming in after Alec seemed small. He sighed and smoothed his hands down his light-washed jeans, eyes flicking over the lightweight navy button up he’d worn today. At least he looked nice. He’d hate to run into Finn on one of the days where he looked slightly above homeless.

“I gotta start a new batch of cinnamon rolls.” Milo announced, hauling himself to his feet and wincing as he walked off. He was dragging his leg a bit now and Alec frowned.

His attention was pulled from Milo when a hand rested in the middle of Alec’s table. Finn slid around and into the seat Milo had vacated, “Wow, I don’t see you for ten years and then twice in as many days. The universe is crazy.”

Alec shifted in his seat, gripping the edges on either side of his legs, “I guess so. Should Milo be working like this? He looks like he’s hurting.”

“He’s been putting in more hours. My dad has the flu so mom’s been taking care of him. I have to watch the gym, so it falls on Milo and Nina. He’s supposed to be sitting most of the time but he doesn’t listen.” Finn rolled his eyes and let a gentle smile fall on Alec, “He’s okay. Stubborn, but okay.”

“If you have to watch the gym, shouldn’t you be there?” Alec asked a bit sharply. He was getting nervous. He wasn’t ready to be alone again with Finn. Especially without alcohol.

“We hired a manager recently. I’m supposed to be here today, but again, stubborn.” Finn shrugged.

Alec nodded and rubbed his arm. He wanted to leave quite suddenly. The urge to run hit him hard and fast. His breathing picked up a touch and he linked his fingers in his lap as he tried to piece together an appropriate excuse to leave. Surely if he didn’t think of a good one, Finn would assume it was only because he’d come into the bakery. Which wasn’t wrong, but Alec didn’t want to hurt his feelings. He hadn’t done anything to deserve that. Alec shouldn’t have come in. He’d been playing with fire.

“Is it really that hard for you to be around me now?” Finn asked quietly.

“Wha-What?” Alec’s head snapped up to look at the other man. Finn’s head was tilted down and he was staring down at his lap, face serious and upset.

Finn took a deep breath and lifted his head slowly, “When I first saw you in the bar, I was…I felt every single emotion you can all at once. Once I got it together, though, I just wanted to be near you again. Not like romantically or anything, just in your space. Ya know? I missed you, Alec. I still miss you. I miss River too.”

Alec’s eyes were locked on Finn’s deep, earnest, brown ones and he was struggling to reboot his brain. What now? He was in shock. How could Finn come out and just say something like that in the middle of his family’s bakery on a normal day? Like it wasn’t a big deal? As if it were nothing?

“So, again, is it that hard for you to be around me? I’ll leave you alone if it is. If not…I’d like to catch up. You used to be one of the most important people in my life after all.” Finn’s smile was unsure and fell after a few seconds when Alec failed to answer right away.

Alec still couldn’t believe the conversation was happening at all. A large part of him was screaming out that nothing would make him happier than having Finn be apart of his life again in whatever capacity. A smaller, more rational part was trying to remind him that there was no chance he could leave it as a simple friendship. He still watched every move Finn made. The way the fabric of his red cotton shirt bunched and stretched with the flex of his muscles, the jawline that tightened under a dusting of facial hair as Finn tried to control his emotions. His gorgeous eyes were always flooded with emotion and so deep, Alec constantly felt himself teetering on the edge of toppling into their depths. No, he wouldn’t be content in just “catching up” with his ex-boyfriend. He would want more and then someone would get hurt again. At the same time, how could he look into those eyes and tell Finn that he didn’t want anything to do with him? How could he let him believe that Alec was so uncomfortable he hated the sight of him?

“Catching up might not be so bad.” Alec finally replied softly.

Finn jerked and he beamed at Alec. His entire face lit up and something inside Alec stretched and threatened to rip. It reminded him of an old comparison. A flash of ears and a wildly wagging tail filled his mind’s eye before he shook it off. He’d been so ridiculous as a teen. While it was true that Finn was chipper and excitable, puppy-like may have been pushing it a bit far. Alec rubbed the back of his neck, feeling his cheeks heat under the smile’s intensity.

“Do you have plans today?” Finn asked, face hopeful and smile still just as bright.

“Oh.” This could be very, very bad.

Red alert. Abort mission. Come up with some form of excuse so you don’t put yourself in a situation you will immediately and deeply regret. God, his jawline is so, so good. Excellent work genetics. Focus, Alec!

His mouth had a mind of its own and got sick of waiting for his brain, “No, River’s busy.”

“Oh, awesome! I was going to go for a hike! Want to come with? You look like you’re actually in shape now so you might be able to keep up!” Finn grinned challengingly and Alec narrowed his eyes.

“I resent the implication that I couldn’t have kept up as a teenager.”

“You were small and scrawny back then. You struggled carrying your backpack around!” Finn laughed.

“Do you know how many credits I took? How many advanced classes? Those books were heavy!” Alec gasped in fake outrage.

“I know how heavy they were. I used to carry your bag for you with one arm so I could still hold your hand remember?” Finn’s smile had softened and the look in his eyes raised alarms in Alec’s head whilst also summoning butterflies that climbed out of his ribs and from between his organs to collect in his stomach. His attitude soured as he tried to will the little bastards away from fluttering or making him feel tingly. Gross. He was a full ass man. He rested his palm on the table to ground himself and get a grip.

“So, you think you can handle a hike or is it too tall an order?” Finn smiled softly, fingers sliding across the table towards Alec’s.

Alec snatched his fingers away quickly and ignored the smug smile on Finn’s face, “You don’t know what you’re talking about. I’m going to leave your bulky ass in the dust!”

 

So, Alec had been wrong.

He was trudging up a hill, sweaty and miserable, while Finn practically bounced up the trail ahead of him. There was a light sheen of sweat on Finn’s shoulders, but other than that, he looked fine. Finn was wearing an orange muscle tank that bared his arms, sides and ribs and white basketball shorts. Alec had changed into a t-shirt and jeans shorts, both in black because he didn’t have anything else. The sun was out and beating down on him. He was melting, suffering, he hadn’t brought any water, Finn was too hot for anyone’s good, and Alec was going to snap.

 

How are you doing back there? You talked a pretty big game.” Finn asked as they reached the top of the hill. Finn wasn’t even out of breath as he stretched his arms over his head and made a pleased sound.

Alec nearly collapsed on a nearby rock and groaned, “Dude, leave me alone.”

Alec wiped at the sweat on his cheeks and brow. He was panting and made the terrible, downright horrific decision to look up. Finn had the bottom of his shirt pulled up to wipe at his upper lip, exposing tanned abs. Alec closed his eyes and started running through any part of the bible that he’d retained from his time living at home. He pictured sauerkraut. He imagined the smell. He thought of his late grandmother in a bikini. Anything to keep himself under control. Once he was okay, he opened his eyes.

In his desperation to look anywhere but at Finn, he took in their surroundings now that he wasn’t exhausted.

His brain slowly connected the dots. It wasn’t night so everything looked different. It had taken him longer to make the connection, to drag the pictures up from his distant memories. Alec stood slowly and walked on slightly shaky legs towards the edge of the lookout. It was the same lookout that Finn had brought him to the night he’d escaped out his bedroom window. When they’d slept snuggled in the bed of the truck. Alec wrapped his arms around himself and looked out over the landscape. The sunrise had been beautiful when they’d awoken that morning, but the view during plain daylight was gorgeous too.

“You remember, huh?” Finn murmured from behind him.

“Remember?” Alec turned around, “Finn it’s one of the happiest memories I have from that time of my life.”

Finn was close now and sighed softly, “Mine too.”

Alec’s heart rate increased as their eye contact became filled with something he didn’t want to acknowledge. This was dangerous. A competitive hike that had been filled with barbs and teasing had ended with tension and Alec felt like an idiot. He took a step back and swallowed, “It’s getting late. We should be getting back, huh?”

Finn looked back at him for a moment before shrugging with an easy smile, “Whatever you want, Alec.”

:thankyou:
 

Also, yay I hit 600,000 written words

*dances in my small corner of the interwebs*

Copyright © 2022 Demiurge; 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.
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Ok Alex, just kiss him already.  Go for it and then you will know what you feel for Finn is either real or it is not for you.  You will never know unless you take the leap yourself.  As difficult as it may be,  will it be worse than going to see your mother?  She threw her hate towards you as soon as you entered the hospital room.  But you did not leave until you had your say to her first.  Your first step at gaining control.  Now how about step number two.  FInn.  You do not feel "anything" for him?  I really do  not believe that.  Do you?  You are there in the bakery,  You knew that he would either be there or soon be there.  Now you went hiking with FInn to the place that means so much to you both.  What better time to either go for it or leave and be frustrated again.  Maybe Finn should be the one to tell Alex what he means to him even after 10 years apart.  What is the worst that can happen. Alex have another panic attack of which Finn has helped him through most of them before.  

It would be wonderful to see the two get back into each others life and possibly even more.  I hope they can look at each other and both begin to tear and reach out for the other to help.   

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On the one hand I want to scream "Hurry up with the next chapter!" After all there's so many issues that need to be addressed:

° Will Alec's mother mellow out even a bit and apologize to son & husband?  (don't hold your breath)

° Will Alec discover that the little girl on Finn's knee is his niece (Milo and Nina's daughter)?

° Can Alec and Finn really get back together? Would Finn leave his gym (co-owned with Milo), and go to west coast to live with Alec? Would Alec give up his business, and leave River, and move back east (doubtful).

So many unanswered questions, awaiting resolution.

On the other hand...

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Oh Alec.....loosen up, kiss him and nail the bugger!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! He won't bite, well...maybe on request😄

But serious: I loved this chapter. It was so feel-good, Milo's reaction at Alec's coming in the bakery, the conversation between Finn and his ex-boyfriend...I guess you got a surprise for us in  mind.

No, Anton, I can't see mom apologize to Alec. That would take more than a miracle...and you what they say: the impossible we'll do immediate but miracles take a little longer.

Already waiting for the next chapter 

 

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