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Treading Water - 11. Chapter 11 Final Chapter- Anchored

The sound of waves gently lapping on shore.

Treading Water

 

 

Chapter 11

 

 

They drove away from Marian’s with another full load of items Craig either utilized or had stored from his previous house. There were boxes of belongings he hadn’t been able to look at since they were first put away because of the memories invoked of his life with Harlan. It was different now. Cookware the man had bought and used was now only cookware, with no sad connotations. The gas barbeque stored in the garage held no significance anymore, other than it was almost brand new. It didn’t bother him that they’d only got to enjoy it a few times. Harlan had been so excited when they purchased it, and he’d want to know it was being appreciated. The freedom he felt to move on had come with time, accepting what his deceased fiancé would have wanted for him, and the miraculous gift of Jared.

He replayed his mother’s plea in his head, and knew he had to try for her sake. Co-existing with Carly would be necessary for her peace of mind, and she deserved nothing less from him. He wouldn’t do it for his sister, but he would for his mom.

The revelation Marian was dating had been a real eye-opener, but he was truly happy to hear such news. She’d spent way too many years alone after her husband had succumbed to heart disease. The twins had been eleven at the time, and the loss of their father seemed so very long ago. He remembered how inconsolable ‘daddy’s little girl’ had been at the time, and looking at it from a different perspective, he realized her nature had changed right about then. She had always been somewhat difficult to deal with, but was even more so after that, and maybe their mother had let her get away with it out of pity. Anyway, it was no excuse for the despicable acts she’d pulled. He’d lost his father too.

Looking over at the man beside him, a warmth that was becoming familiar, spread through him. Jared was a different man now, and Craig could still hear the laughter as he played with his daughter until it was time to put her to bed. She usually fussed with her mother, but she was good as gold for daddy, and was asleep before he finished the little book about the fishes in the pond, her favorite for the last few months. When his niece liked something, she stuck with it, as proved by the constant presence of the first stuffed animal she had ever latched on to.

Jared flashed him a grin from behind the steering wheel. “What are you thinking about?”

“You, and Bailey.”

“What about me and Bails?”

“I liked listening to you two while Mom and I were moving stuff out. I’ve missed that since… when you left Mom’s house last year.”

“I wasn’t allowed to come to the house. Part of the deal I accepted after I screwed up.”

“I wish I had known that.” The reminder brought a little sliver of pain… sympathy for the dark-haired man.

“Like I said before, it’s all water under the bridge.” The nonchalant words didn’t match the tone, and Craig caught it.

“Well, we’ll make up for that from now on. We’ll spend a lot more time with Bailey. Mom told me Carly called her lawyer and asked him to draw up the new agreement. She also said I shook my sister up pretty good… something about me acting like a mother tiger,” he said with amusement.

“So, I was the cub?”

“Yeah, I guess you were.”

You rescued me this time, Martha.”

“You’re living dangerously, stud. Mother tiger here, remember?”

“Does that mean you’re going to maul me?”

“Maybe later,” he teased. “I was thinking. What about prettying up Bailey’s room? I mean it’s nice, but we could get her some fun curtains with fish on them. And now that I’ll be there when she comes home, we could change the chair to a loveseat so we could both sit and read to her? It’d be nice to have her between us. What do you think?”

“I think you already have an entire plan, and it’s more than just curtains and a couch. Am I right?”

“Okay, well maybe, but only if you agree,” Craig admitted a little sheepishly. “I can’t help it. I’m nesting.”

Jared chuckled. “I love that you’re nesting, and I think it’s a great idea to change her room up. It isn’t very girly. I didn’t know how to do it, and with only having her one night every two weeks, I didn’t worry so much… but I guess I should have. Her room at Trina’s was a lot prettier.” Again, Craig caught the same tone… was there shame present?

“I hope you’re not apologising, because it is a nice room, and you always do a great job as her dad.”

“Yeah. Maybe it’s the one thing I didn’t fuck up too bad.” There was definitely sadness laced with guilt, and Craig heard it loud and clear. He watched Jared’s Adam’s apple bob a few times as he swallowed… he was keeping his eyes straight ahead.

They pulled up to a traffic light. “Jared, how did this get heavy? I’m sorry… I shouldn’t have said anything. We don’t need to change her room.”

“No, Craig, no. I’m sorry. I’m used to being morose. I know you meant well, and I agree with you. You know, the fact is, I have done a good job as a dad, and I’m proud of that. No worries. And now I have you to help me do an even better job.”

“Yes, you do.” There was silence for a few kilometers as Jared weaved through Sunday evening traffic, ever mindful of the load on the back of the truck. “This is new for us,” Craig said quietly.

“What?”

“Sorry, I was just thinking out loud. We should keep in mind this, what we’re doing, is different from what we’ve been used to.”

“I’m sorry? What are we talking about?”

Craig sighed. Why did he start this? “You were sad back there, for just a minute, but I felt it… and I had a meltdown today over ‘Tarzan,’ and I’m just saying as great as this is, we need to remember we both have some issues, and we shouldn’t try to cover it up for the other’s sake. We need to be open and honest, and not worry about putting our foot in our mouth. I want this to work, Jared.”

“Oh God, me too. I get what you’re saying. I glossed over how I was feeling, didn’t I?”

“It seemed like it. Do you know how much you helped me today when I got upset on the roadside? As ugly as it might have been, I opened up to you.”

“And I need to do that too?” It was a statement and a question both.

“When you need to, yes. I will never judge you, Jared. You are the best man I know… that I’ve ever known, so don’t make apologies. Just tell me what’s on your mind when you feel down or ‘morose.’ I want to share the good and the not so good. Understand?”

“I think so. You want to get inside my mind?” He was teasing, and it lightened things right away.

“Not your mind… just your pants.”

“Even better.” They were both grinning now. “So open honesty, and no judging. We don’t hide what we’re feeling. If we’re sad or down, we share?”

“Exactly.”

“Okay, I want to share something with you now.”

Jared’s serious tone had Craig’s undivided attention.

“Fish curtains? Really? I was thinking of some with cute mama tigers on them.” His face contorted with effort before finally bursting into laughter.

“Ha ha. Very funny. I’m beginning to think this sharing isn’t such a good idea after all,” Craig joked.

“Yes it is, baby.” Jared was genuinely serious this time as he turned the corner onto their road and headed out of town. “I’ve been tiptoeing a little bit, almost like I’m holding my breath because I might screw this up too. I think that fear was why I panicked this morning when I woke up. I’m not proud of my record so far, and this is like a dream I can’t afford to lose. When you said you weren’t sure which home you wanted to go to today, after the Tarzan thing, I thought my world was going to end, and it was because I fucked up again. Is that open enough for you?” he asked softly, again staring straight ahead.

Craig found himself choking up, and struggled to control himself. “Yes, because if you didn’t tell me this, I wouldn’t get to tell you, first of all, I’m not ever going anywhere, and second, it was me who caused my own meltdown because I let some of my fear… my baggage… control me. But I learned from it. You did what I needed you to do, and I was able to get past it. I want to do that for you, Jared. I know you may need time, but I want to help take away those fears.”

“And I’m going to let you.” Astonishing blue met vivid green and they shared a smile.

“And I still say fish curtains… with nice a blue water background. A girl’s room doesn’t have to be all about pink.”

“Okay, Martha, you win.”

“Ever heard a mama tiger growl?”

“I think I’m about to.” Laughter filled the cab of the truck as Jared pulled into their driveway. They were home.

A beaten up old Jeep, parked alongside Craig’s, indicated Trina was there, and Jared squeezed in beside it. As Craig got out, Trina came through the side door of their home.

Her face exhibited a wicked smile as she surveyed the two of them. “I guess I should give my key back. I can see you guys have been up to a lot in the last couple of days.”

“Yeah, we have, Treen, but keep the key,” Jared said with a cheery grin as he moved to Craig’s side and joined their hands together. “Your brother is a happy, happy man.”

“And from the looks of it, you’re not alone,” she said, talking directly to Craig.

“No, he isn’t. I think I’m happier than your brother is.”

“Not possible, baby.”

Trina squealed at the endearment. “Well, it’s about time. I never heard you call your ex-wife anything but Carly. What do you call him, Craig?”

“Don’t,” Jared ordered Craig.

Twinkling eyes met his. “Don’t what… stud?”

Jared’s groan was soon accompanied by more laughter from Trina. “Stud? Oh my God. Wait till I tell Brian. He’s gonna love it!”

“See what you did?” Jared scowled, but there was immense pride behind it, and Craig leaned in and gave him a quick kiss.

“Sorry.”

“No, you’re not, but I love you anyway.”

“Me too.”

“You guys just made my year.” Trina moved forward and gave them both hugs. “I love what you’ve done with the house, Craig. I assume you’re moving in?”

“I officially moved in yesterday. I know it probably seems crazy, but I love your brother, always have, and I think we’ve wasted enough time.” He looked at Jared when he spoke, and received a beam of approval.

“I just have to look at you guys to know it’s not crazy. Congratulations. Jared, you deserve this.” She hugged them both again, and there were tears in her eyes. “I guess I can stop worrying about you now?”

“I’ve got him,” Craig assured her. She left with a promise to return on the weekend to see Bailey.

“You’ve got me, do you?” Jared teased.

“Yes. I’ve. Got. You.”

“All right then.”

 

The new office was beautiful, and Craig felt an inner glow of contentment. A soft breeze fluttered the recycled, subtly-striped curtains from his old place, and the caress of it on his face felt like an approving touch from Harlan. He was right about the rug looking perfect in here. It was one of his older ones but it was very durable, with a masculine look, and the perfect size for the room. He would make sure to pick up clear plastic floor guards sometime in the next few days to protect it from the chairs. The artwork, which hadn’t been displayed for more than a year, brought life to the room. There were vibrant, colorful scenes on every wall, and Jared stared at each one with rapt appreciation as they were hung.

“This might be my favorite room.”

“Really?”

“Yeah, it looks like a rich man’s office. The desks don’t exactly match, but I think they look great together. Am I right?”

“Definitely. It’s an eclectic look, but it all ties together. And the curtains and the rug complement each other. We just need to get you the same office chair as mine, and I know where to get it. That, along with a good-sized bookcase, and the room will look complete.”

“I can picture it.”

“You’re learning, stud.”

“I have the best teacher, Martha.” Jared smirked.

“I give up.”

“Ha, I knew you were trainable. And you know I mean it as a compliment, right?”

Craig sighed. “Yeah, I do. But don’t you dare call me that in front of anyone else. So, you like this better than the family room?”

“While we’re standing in it, yeah. But when we’re snuggled on the couch, then that’s my favorite one.”

“The perfect answer for Martha to hear. You really are learning.”

“Seriously, Craig. The changes you're making to the house are all amazing. I love everything about what we're doing, and I’m not just talking about our home.”

Craig smiled at the hug he was encompassed in. “I think it’s time for us to change rooms, and have that snuggle on the couch.”

“I’m with you. How about some microwave popcorn and the rest of the horse movie?”

“That, my man, sounds like a great plan.”

 

Craig lifted his head from where it had been resting on Jared’s lap. The fingers absentmindedly massaging his scalp as they watched the movie has been incredibly soothing. Reaching for the remote, he turned the whole system off. “It was great, wasn’t it?”

Jared nodded agreement. “I thought ‘Hidalgo’ was a goner for a while there. I loved it. It was almost as good as “Rambo.”

Craig shook his head in mock disgust. “Can I ask you something?”

“Sure. Anything.”

“Why didn’t you find someone else… a guy… after you left Carly?”

Jared didn’t say anything, and Craig worried he’d made him uncomfortable.

“Never mind. It doesn’t matter. I mean, I get you had a lot of stuff weighing you down.”

Jared twisted so he was facing Craig, who did the same. They ended up at each end of the couch with their feet entwined. “I did try, once. Are you sure you want to hear this?”

“Only if you want to tell me.”

“I want to. It’s a little embarrassing, though.” He picked at a thread on a hole in his jeans before he began. “After I lost my license, a couple of months after, I was in a bad way one night. I felt really closed in at Trina’s, and Grandpa was starting to go downhill fast… it was all so depressing.” He sighed in obvious remembrance. “Anyway, I ended up taking the bus into town from Treen’s place, and I went to a gay bar for the first time. I figured I had to move on, do something, anything, you know?”

“I totally get that. It must have been a rough time for you.”

“Yeah, it was, and to tell you the truth, I missed you like crazy. I’d gotten used to being near you, and it felt like you’d been ripped away.” He managed a feeble smile. “So anyway, yeah, I went to 501’s. It was pretty loud in there, and I wasn’t used to that, but it was okay, I guess.”

“Harlan and I went there a few times. It has a nice big dance floor. Did you dance?”

“Hell, no.” He laughed at the idea. “I got asked a few times, though, but I kept saying no thanks.”

“Were you comfortable being in a gay bar?”

“I tried to be. It wasn’t too bad. I ended up having three drinks and that helped.” He was quiet again, and put his head down. When he raised it back up, his expression was different… sadder. “I thought I saw you there.”

Craig was surprised. “It wasn’t me. I haven’t been out since Harlan passed.”

“Oh, I know. It was just someone who looked like you, but it made me think of what I was there to forget. I ended up walking up to the guy, and I could see for sure it wasn’t you when he turned sideways. I started to walk away, but he’d seen my approach and ended up following me back to the bar. He had your blond hair and your green eyes, or at least I thought so at the time.”

“What do you mean, you thought so?”

“Well, it was dark in there and people got lit up by the flashing lights but only quickly, you know?”

“Yeah, those damn strobes are annoying as hell, and they can actually make me dizzy. You must have got hit on a lot?”

Jared blushed. “Yeah, kind of. It was safer just to talk to the one guy… he called himself Laser, but I don’t think that was his real name. He was a little pushy and handsy, but he looked like you so I went with it.”

“You went with it?” Craig found himself feeling irrationally jealous, and it was his turn to blush when his voice broke at the question. It didn’t go unnoticed.

“I did agree to go home with him. I figured I had to do it… you know… get it over with. He said he lived close by.”

Craig didn’t want to ask, but he did. “What happened?”

Jared laughed sheepishly. “When we got out to the lobby, my fantasy wore off pretty quick. He didn’t resemble you in the least. His golden hair had dark roots, and he was wearing colored contacts. That green doesn’t exist anywhere I’ve seen, and his eyebrows were plucked and they just looked weird. You’re beautiful, but he wasn’t. It made me realize what I was doing, and how stupid it was. I couldn’t replace you with someone else.” He let out an embarrassed snort. “It’s funny now, but it was sad at the time. My big night out… my big step forward, and all I’d accomplished was to make myself feel worse.”

“So what happened to Laser?”

“You’re not going to believe this part.” Jared hesitated. “He told me he had to use the washroom quick, before we left, and since I was already starting to panic, that was a good thing. I decided when he came out I'd tell him sorry, but that I needed to leave right away, because I knew there was no way I could go through with hooking up with him.” He winced at the thought. “At that point I just wanted to go home, you know, before the buses stopped running.

“The thing was, he took forever, and I didn’t want to up and leave without saying anything, so I went back into the washroom area and opened the door. There he was on his knees at the urinals giving some guy a blow job, and another guy was watching. I couldn’t fucking believe it. It made me feel ill, but I was relieved at the same time. He stopped when he saw me and invited me to join… said it would be an appetizer before we went to his place. Man, he was so laid-back about it. I told him something came up and I had to go, and then I took off out of that place. I threw up outside… I don’t know why it freaked me out, but it did. God, I almost went home with that guy, and it would have been a fucking disaster.”

“I’m sorry, Jared.” Craig understood how that kind of introduction to the gay world could affect someone like Jared. It would have bothered him too. The free and easy lifestyle was definitely not for everyone.

“It’s no biggy, but I never went back. I concentrated on Grandpa after that. He needed me.”

A pall had fallen over the quiet room, and Craig was at a loss as to what to say.

“I’m glad I waited. My first time was with the man I love… and it was perfect. The reality was way better than some desperate fantasy.”

There was no doubting the sincerity of those words, and Craig had to work hard to tamp down his emotions. “I’m glad you waited too, and you’re right… it couldn’t have been any better. Thanks for opening up to me like this.”

“It’s what we need to do, right?”

“Right.” Craig smiled at the dark-haired man.

“I should open up about something else too.”

“Okay. Whatever you want.”

Jared blew out a long breath. “I called someone we used to go to school with this afternoon, after I finished work.”

Craig wondered why he looked so serious. “Who?”

“Denny French.”

“Oh, I remember him. You played ball with him. He was an outfielder, and a pretty good one. I didn’t know you stayed friends?”

“Yeah, that’s him, and we’re not, like, hang-out friends. We’ve worked on the same jobs a few times, and I’ve only really talked to him in a group during lunch breaks. He’s awesome at drywall… hanging, taping, and mudding. You probably don’t know this, but he’s Ronnie Chilton’s first cousin.”

Why was Jared hanging his head? “No, I didn’t know that. Jared, is something wrong?”

“No… it’s just… I know you stuck your neck out for me with your sister, and the reason I have a fair agreement, finally, is because I’m not supposed to know about Ronnie. What you did for me… well, I can never thank you enough. It’s just that for Bailey’s sake, I feel like I should try to help the guy.”

“Help him how? What did you say to his cousin?”

“Oh, I didn’t give anything away. I wouldn’t do something like that without talking to you first. I was going to leave this alone because with what I found out today. I don’t think I can help him anyway, but you have a right to know what I was thinking about.”

Jared was fixated on his busy fingers, and a curious Craig had them switch positions so they were sitting side by side. He reached over and grabbed one of the nervous hands in his. “Just relax and tell me what this is about.”

“Okay.” Jared gave him a weak smile. “I wanted to find out how Ronnie was doing, but I was careful. All I did was call Denny and offer him some work on our new job. When he said he was booked up, I asked him if Ronnie was looking for work. I didn’t have to prod him for information... he just started telling me about him. I guess it was on his mind. It turns out Ronnie is in rehab for the fourth time, all the way down on the east coast. I didn’t want to sound too curious, but he ended up telling me what a mess that whole family is. They’re all druggies… the mom, dad, sister. That was a shock to learn.”

“I had no idea either. Wow… so how did he end up in rehab?”

“An aunt and uncle picked him up and took him back with them to Nova Scotia. He’s actually in a hospital because he’s pretty sick. Denny doesn’t think it will work, but they want to give it another try. They were the ones that got him into a facility the first time. It’s nice they still aren’t giving up. At least someone cares about him. Apparently, he’s addicted to both heroin and crack. Denny says he’s HIV positive, to top it all off, and as far as he knows, he hasn’t been taking any medication for it.”

“Jesus. That’s horrible. When I saw him, I thought he looked really ill, like he was close to death.” Craig shuddered. “What can we do for him?”

“We?”

“Yeah, of course we. I’ve worried about him too, ever since I saw him begging for handouts. He didn’t even know who I was. Whatever we do, we do together, right?”

“You’re amazing. I was a little worried you’d see it as breaking the deal. I’m sorry… it's more of that fear about screwing up again." The apologetic look on Jared's face caused Craig to squeeze his hand in understanding and support. "I should have known you wouldn’t feel that way… but I don’t know what we can do now. Denny says he’s in the best hands possible, so I guess we wait and see. He’s apparently pretty far gone, so nothing we could say to him right now would mean much. It’s just… damn, he’s Bailey’s father.”

“Yes, he is, but you’re her dad, and it’s your job is to protect her. Were you thinking him knowing about Bailey would help him fight harder?”

“I did, and I was really torn about it, but now I’m not so sure. One thing’s for certain, though. I do not want Bailey mixed up with his family if they’re all addicts. No matter what, I have to keep her as far away from that kind of life as possible.”

“So where does that leave us?”

“I was thinking the only thing I can do to help without involving Bailey is to give him a job if he gets clean and comes back here. And go from there. He needs to beat this thing first, and I can’t use my daughter to help him do it… I really don’t think it would work now anyway. Not from what Denny said.”

“I agree. You have a big heart and it’s in the right place. I love that you want to help him, but like you said, it’d be wrong to involve our little girl.”

Jared stretched his neck before leaning into Craig. “Denny says he thinks his health won’t hold out through this latest attempt. It’s probably too late, and that makes me sad, even though I really don’t know the guy.”

“It makes me sad too, but Bailey has us, and we’re always going to be there for her. It sounds like Ronnie might have been doomed by his home environment, and maybe we should think of it as Bailey being lucky she will never be a part of it.”

“Yeah, you’re right, and I’m thinking that way too now. Still, I hope he can survive this, and turn himself around. He was a good guy in school.”

“Yes, that’s true. People used to talk about what a pothead he was, but I never heard anyone say they didn’t like him.”

“Thank you, Craig, for understanding I had to at least check out where he was at.”

“I’m glad you did. Now we know.”

“Yeah, now we know.”

“Are you okay?”

“Yeah, I am. I’m glad I told you. I’m learning this being open with each other is the only way to go. I was so closed up with Carly… even Trina and my grandpa, especially after the wedding,” he reflected. “It all felt so wrong at the time, and it only got worse because each morning I woke up knowing I wasn’t living the life I wanted. Everything about this feels right… so yeah, I am okay. Maybe we can’t fix everything, but I have you and Bailey, and I’m going to cherish that every day. I’ll keep in touch with Denny, though, and that’s all we can do for now.”

The brutal honesty of Jared’s words touched something deep inside Craig, and he pulled him closer still. “What we have is enough… more than enough. It wasn’t easy, but we found each other, and whatever comes up, we can deal with. I can’t wait for our first weekend with Bailey. I love that little girl, and I love you. And while we’re at it… being open… yeah, about the weekend, there are two heating and air-conditioning guys coming this Saturday to give us quotes.”

“What?” His focus changed as he stared into green eyes, and Craig’s goal was achieved. Looking back was okay, but not a place to dwell too long in. They had so much to look forward to.

“You heard me.”

“Air-conditioning?”

“Yeah, that’s what I said. You told me the furnace comes first, before we do other stuff, so that’s what we’re going to do next. And we might as well check out central air at the same time because it would save us money if we do it all together. After that, maybe we can decide on kitchen countertops and appliances. You’ll have to talk to the heating guys though, while I watch Bailey, because I know nothing about furnaces. Apparently, propane is the way to go… the fuel price is cheaper, and we wouldn’t need a new, insurance-approved oil tank, which runs for around $1800, and needs replacing about every ten years. There’s a longer warranty on the heat exchanger too. The total cost would be roughly $3600 for the highest efficiency one, and $75 a year for the biggest tank rental. Why are you laughing?”

Jared continued laughing and Craig pretended annoyance.

“I don’t see what’s so funny?”

“Aw, baby. You’re so cute. There’s no stopping you is there? Have you run out of oxygen yet?"

"Ha ha," Craig said with an eyeroll, trying not to smile at Jared's amusement.

"I thought you said you didn’t know anything about furnaces? It looks like Martha is a jack of all trades. When did you arrange all this?”

“I sent out three emails this morning after you left, and two of them got back to me. I checked some of their references and they both have good reputations. And I’m not a jack of all trades… I only want to do my part to get our home in order. Stop laughing,” Craig ordered, pretending to be annoyed.

“I’m sorry, baby. I know, and it’s sweet. I’m the luckiest guy in the world.” He backed his statement up with a kiss that fast became passionate.

When they came up for air, Craig responded dreamily. “Now you’re talking. Maybe you should take me upstairs and show me how much you mean that.”

“It’s a deal. Now you’re talking, Martha.”

 

An hour later, they lay side by side, softly panting with the exertion of their lovemaking. “Holy hell,” Jared said in a voice filled with emotion. “So that’s what I’ve been waiting all this time for? Wow.”

“I hope that’s a good wow, stud,” Craig said, breathing somewhat heavily. “Because I definitely want to do that again.” Rising up to a seating position, he placed a folded towel underneath his beautiful blue-eyed man before leaning back over for a soft, love-filled kiss, sharing Jared’s taste with him.

“Fuck… me too.”

“Good choice of words,” got a chuckle from Jared.

“I’m sorry it took me so long to relax, but in my defense, you’re pretty big.”

“Are you kidding me? You’re apologizing for giving me the most amazing gift? You couldn’t have done any better. It’s not like I’ve topped all that often, but what we did, and how it made me feel, was off-the-charts incredible.”

Jared grinned at the praise. “You sure shot a big load. I think there’s a puddle down there now.”

“I wasn’t alone,” Craig said as he returned the grin. “There was a hell of a lot to lick up, not that I’m complaining. There’s still some in your hair.”

Jared snickered. “That’s my badge of honor, and I wear it proudly. You were ‘stud’ tonight, baby.”

“I think maybe we both were. I know you said something about turns, but I was sort of surprised you wanted to bottom.”

“Oh, believe me… I’ve wanted to do this with you for as long as I can remember. It was everything I could have hoped for. I meant it when I said I want to do it again… just, not right now.”

Craig exploded with laughter. “I know exactly what you’re feeling at the moment,” he said when he calmed down. “It does get easier.”

“Cool. Good to know.” More laughter, this time from both of them.

 

A quickly shared shower, and they were back in bed for the night, spooning under a light sheet. Tomorrow was a work day for Craig as well, but this time, he’d be coming home to Jared. It was unbelievable, when he thought of where his life was at a few short days ago. “Are you feeling all right?”

“Never better, Martha.” Jared groaned and then shivered at the gentle pinch his nipple received. “How about you?”

“I’ve never been better either. I’m right where I belong, with the man I was always supposed to be with. Do you believe in destiny?”

Jared twisted so they were facing each other, and started his answer with an affirming kiss. When it ended, he whispered softly, “I never did before, but I do now.”

Thank you to Tim, and all those who cared enough to stick with this little story. I truly appreciate it. We may hear from these guys again, so click 'follow the story' button if you wish for updates on any future chapters. Any discussion can be held in the COTT thread of the promising author forum:

www.gayauthors.org/forums/topic/39932-cards-on-the-table-by-headstall/

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Favorite line: "A soft breeze fluttered the recycled, subtly-striped curtains from his old place, and the caress of it on his face felt like an approving touch from Harlan." So much is stated in this one line! Bringing the old into the new, respecting the memory of Harlan, feeling loved and ready to move on, adding the final touches to the office space that he and Jared will share together, the start of a fresh, new life, like the breeze coming through the window. Very touching sentiments. I loved this chapter in so many ways, Gary. Although I will admit that I often cringe at happy endings, this story deserved nothing less. You brought these characters to life with superb skill, and their shared story of love and loss and finding love again is nothing short of beautiful. Thank you for the gift of your writing, my friend. Cheers - Mac

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On 01/21/2017 04:57 AM, MacGreg said:

Favorite line: "A soft breeze fluttered the recycled, subtly-striped curtains from his old place, and the caress of it on his face felt like an approving touch from Harlan." So much is stated in this one line! Bringing the old into the new, respecting the memory of Harlan, feeling loved and ready to move on, adding the final touches to the office space that he and Jared will share together, the start of a fresh, new life, like the breeze coming through the window. Very touching sentiments. I loved this chapter in so many ways, Gary. Although I will admit that I often cringe at happy endings, this story deserved nothing less. You brought these characters to life with superb skill, and their shared story of love and loss and finding love again is nothing short of beautiful. Thank you for the gift of your writing, my friend. Cheers - Mac

Thanks, Mac. It is gratifying to hear how you felt about this chapter and the story. What you speak off is what I hoped would come through. And, yes, there was enough pain in both of their young lives... Craig and Jared deserved this happy ending... or rather, beginning, as did we. Thank you for your very kind words, and your support... I believe, whatever I may write in the future, this story will hold its place in my heart... cheers to you, my friend... Gary....

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Great story! Beautiful ending! I didn't miss the hint for the possibility of more chapters. How about a five years later epilogue? The story doesn't need it. You wrapped things up nicely. But everyone who fell in love with Craig and Jared would love it. Thanks for this wonderful story! I' just a little sad it's over.

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On 02/10/2017 04:26 AM, JeffreyL said:

Great story! Beautiful ending! I didn't miss the hint for the possibility of more chapters. How about a five years later epilogue? The story doesn't need it. You wrapped things up nicely. But everyone who fell in love with Craig and Jared would love it. Thanks for this wonderful story! I' just a little sad it's over.

Thank you, thank you, thank you! I'm stoked you read this story and liked it. I would love to revisit these guys, because I really care for them. I was sad when it ended too, but I still smile when I think of them... we'll see... your reviews were wonderful, my friend... cheers... Gary....

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Well this is s great and powerful story. And so much wonderful stuff in it. A very touching  story all the highs and lows that should be in a good story. Craig and Jared will have each other forever! And they can work thru anything with love and each other in this charming story.  I know this isn't the end and some day if were lucky you will visited these gays again. 

And I for one cant wait lol.

 

Great story Great chapter :P:worship::thankyou:

Rock on with your bad self Gary

 

Edited by Albert1434
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13 hours ago, Albert1434 said:

Well this is s great and powerful story. And so much wonderful stuff in it. A very touching  story all the highs and lows that should be in a good story. Craig and Jared will have each other forever! And they can work thru anything with love and each other in this charming story.  I know this isn't the end and some day if were lucky you will visited these gays again. 

And I for one cant wait lol.

 

Great story Great chapter :P:worship::thankyou:

Rock on with your bad self Gary

 

Yes, we might just see these guys again :) . "Great and powerful story"... thank you, Albert. As I said to you once, this signifies to me, a turning point in my writing. I appreciate all of your support, and all the kind words... it is invigorating for me... and I will rock on with my bad self, buddy... Cheers... Gary....

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Gary

Excellent story!  You could keep going with this one as well 😉😉😉

Jeff

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On 6/12/2017 at 11:33 PM, jtpawlik said:

Gary

Excellent story!  You could keep going with this one as well 😉😉😉

Jeff

Thanks, Jeff! Sorry for the delay in answering... I had a tough week. Glad you liked it. I always intended to revisit these guys, but I never got around to it... at least not yet :) ... thanks for reading and for the nice comment, buddy... cheers... Gary....

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Your stories are always amazing, and this one is no exception! The history between Jared and Craig is so sad, and I'm glad they managed to be together after all the obstacles. Their love and committment to each other is really inspiring and I have a feeling it won't be long before they expand their family by adopting a kid of their own, giving Bailey a sister or a brother!

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48 minutes ago, ObicanDecko said:

Your stories are always amazing, and this one is no exception! The history between Jared and Craig is so sad, and I'm glad they managed to be together after all the obstacles. Their love and committment to each other is really inspiring and I have a feeling it won't be long before they expand their family by adopting a kid of their own, giving Bailey a sister or a brother!

Thank you so  much, ObiconDecko!! I'm very pleased this story meant something to you... it's very special to me. It was meant to be an anthology piece, but it refused to be fit into one chapter... I loved the whole experience of writing Craig and Jared's journey, and I love the characters... well... not Carly. :)  You could be right about them expanding their family. The are the right kind of people with the right kind of love to share.

 

This story also paved the way for me to write Morningstar: The Malaise. It made me think I was up for the challenge. I appreciate you taking the time to read and comment, buddy... cheers... Gary....

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Wow Gary, That was a fitting end to a fantastic story, I love stories that have flawed characters in them, although we suspend reality when reading (well I might 😲🙃) I find thier failures, worries and ultimately redemption the thing that hooks me in. I was so cool for Jared to want to help out his daughters biological dad, just a measure of the awkward character and characters you created for us in this story. This is the first of your work I’ve had the pleasure of reading and look forward too more. And maybe an update on these guys a few years on, maybe with a few Rugrats of their own,.. maybe. Thanks John.

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2 hours ago, FFSELL said:

Wow Gary, That was a fitting end to a fantastic story, I love stories that have flawed characters in them, although we suspend reality when reading (well I might 😲🙃) I find thier failures, worries and ultimately redemption the thing that hooks me in. I was so cool for Jared to want to help out his daughters biological dad, just a measure of the awkward character and characters you created for us in this story. This is the first of your work I’ve had the pleasure of reading and look forward too more. And maybe an update on these guys a few years on, maybe with a few Rugrats of their own,.. maybe. Thanks John.

Hey, John. I'm pleased as heck you liked this story, as well as the frailties of the characters. This was only meant to be a short story, but as soon as I started writing it, I knew it was going to be so much more. I hope you like my other works as much. One story in particular I hope you give a chance is Morningstar: The Malaise. It is a 'shifter' story, but it too, is so much more.  Even if you don't like the genre, I don't think you'll be disappointed. :) I've often thought about returning to Craig and Jared at some point... maybe some day. Thanks so much for your wonderful comments... they mean a lot... cheers... Gary....

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I might have commented this chapter already, but I feel like I owe so many comments. I got a comment notifiication today about this story and end up binge reading this story for the second time. I know you feel that you evolved as a writer since this, and I am sure you are better, but, and I say this in a good way, I don't know if I can see the difference, because this was already a delight to read. Really like how their weak and strong points complement each other. Love Jared compassion and Craig analytic mind. They way they learn how to talk you each other is amazing, and a good insight on how to make a relationship work. Thank you Gary, for continue to give us your beautiful pieces

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30 minutes ago, Sweetlion said:

I might have commented this chapter already, but I feel like I owe so many comments. I got a comment notifiication today about this story and end up binge reading this story for the second time. I know you feel that you evolved as a writer since this, and I am sure you are better, but, and I say this in a good way, I don't know if I can see the difference, because this was already a delight to read. Really like how their weak and strong points complement each other. Love Jared compassion and Craig analytic mind. They way they learn how to talk you each other is amazing, and a good insight on how to make a relationship work. Thank you Gary, for continue to give us your beautiful pieces

Thank you so much, Leo! I definitely have evolved since this, but this was the real start of that evolution, and I'm quite proud of Treading Water

I liked very much how Craig and Jared complemented each other too... their real strength is together, which is true of most good couples. I'm truly stoked you thought this a beautiful piece... I know you're an avid reader, so it means a lot... cheers, my dear friend... Gary.... :hug: 

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9 minutes ago, Ezz0564 said:

Another great story, Thank-You

You're welcome, James. Thanks for reading. I'm pleased to hear you liked it... it was a turning point in my writing, in oh so many ways, not the least being the confidence it gave me. :)  Cheers... Gary.... :hug: 

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I have just read this story for the second time, I am not sure why I didn’t comment last time that I read it, it was a great story but I think that there could have been another chapter or two to see how the boys got on together. 

You are a great story teller but why haven’t you finished COTT it’s been over a year since you last updated it, I get the impression that you have lost interest in finishing it off. 

 

Edited by Bft
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1 hour ago, Bft said:

I have just read this story for the second time, I am not sure why I didn’t comment last time that I read it, it was a great story but I think that there could have been another chapter or two to see how the boys got on together. 

You are a great story teller but why haven’t you finished COTT it’s been over a year since you last updated it, I get the impression that you have lost interest in finishing it off. 

 

Thanks for commenting, Bft. I'm pleased you liked this story. Yes, I agree there could have been more to explore in this story, but it felt right to leave them here, beginning their lives together. This one remains very special to me.

 

Thanks for thinking me a great storyteller... I appreciate that. As far as COTT, I certainly haven't lost interest. It was my very first story, and maybe I made a mistake in following urges to write other stories, until it was finished, but muses are strange things. I have so many stories in my head, and I'm happy to have gotten some of them out before they disappeared... in particular, Morningstar: The Malaise, which took a year and a half of solid writing, with many long days and nights striving to get each and every detail right. Many other stories have come and gone... likely lost forever. :(  I don't expect all readers to understand, but each time I left it to write other stuff, I came back, and I will again. Getting Michael and Kendall to the place I've left them is quite a personal achievement for me, so I don't feel the urgency I might otherwise have. I left no one hanging, They are in their new home, and Nate and Bodie and Arron and Chet and all the other characters are doing well. Yes, there is more to tell, and I will, when I feel ready enough to do them all justice. That's all I can tell you. I have two other stories partly written, and anthology entry for the one coming up. Even though I have been steadily renovating for the last year, I have still managed to produce... Exes and Ohs and Oil and Water, for some examples. 

 

I'm sorry if you or any other reader feels let down... I hate that... I appreciate that you care about Cards on the Table... I sincerely do. Cheers... Gary....

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18 minutes ago, Nana Atuwa said:

Great story third time reading still love it thanks

Third time?! Awesome! :D  Thanks, Nana. That means a lot to me. I'm so glad you liked it... it's one of my personal favorites, and the story where I think my quality of writing took a leap forward. No pressure, but I would love if you could leave a short review in the review section at the bottom of the story page, beneath the chapter list. It might help others find this story and give it a shot. :)  As I said, no pressure... just a humble request. Cheers... Gary.... :hug: 

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nix

Posted (edited)

Commenting a little too late from when the story was finished because I found this site only a year ago. But hey better late than never, right?

Let me start with Carly, Carly was a perfect antagonist to this story. She was annoying, exasperating, and very easy to hate haha. I think not only did she have a very large attitude problem, she was also probably fucked up in the head so I would really suggest for her to talk to someone in the future regarding that.

I’m glad that problems and the chaos that Carly had spun and created for the two lead men did not stop them from finding their way to each other’s arms. Damn what a mess she made!

Like any of Gary’s stories, once again it was emphasized and reiterated how important communication was to any romantic relationships. It was always my main take away whenever I read any of his works. Talk! Open up! Be vulnerable with each other! Jared and Craig easily prevailed because of this. 

Edited by nix
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1 hour ago, nix said:

Commenting a little too late from when the story was finished because I found this site only a year ago. But hey better late than never, right?

Let me start with Carly, Carly was a perfect antagonist to this story. She was annoying, exasperating, and very easy to hate haha. I think not only did she have a very large attitude problem, she was also probably fucked up in the head so I would really suggest for her to talk to someone in the future regarding that.

I’m glad that problems and the chaos that Carly had spun and created for the two lead men did not stop them from finding their way to each other’s arms. Damn what a mess she made!

Like any of Gary’s stories, once again it was emphasized and reiterated how important communication was to any romantic relationships. It was always my main take away whenever I read any of his works. Talk! Open up! Be vulnerable with each other! Jared and Craig easily prevailed because of this. 

Always better late than never. Thanks, nix! I'm pleased you found Carly the perfect antagonist. Believe it or not, she is based on someone in real life, someone I know(knew now) and actually loved. We all learned never to cross her. :(  And yeah, I don't want to say she was crazy, but her thinking wasn't right. It never really was. Will Carly get help? Life is a process, and some of us become better people, and some of us don't. Maybe if she finds real love, she will become someone better. For Bailey's sake, she needs to. 

This story was actually meant to be a short one, for one of the anthologies, but it got away from me. Writing the first scene, with all the characters of the story in it, I realized there was so much more to tell than could be done in five or ten thousand words. And to be honest, I fell in love with Jared... and Craig... and I couldn't let them go. My stories are like complete movies in my head, and I saw all these conversations, and in the end, followed the voices. Someone had to clean up Carly's mess. :P  

Thank you for the kind words, and for reading this story, my friend. It is appreciated. While I write different genres, I agree there is a theme that runs through them all... if you want to be happy, and live your good life, with love, passion, and sharing, you have to put in the hard work. Jared and Craig did that, and I'm so glad you appreciate it. This was a little human drama I will always be proud of... cheers, and thanks for sharing your thoughts... it's how I get my inspiration and drive. :hug: 

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Chris  L

Posted (edited)

What an AMAZING story! So enjoyed reading and feeling the emotions Jared and Craig were experiencing during it. Thank you so much for a real life, realistic, happy ever after love story!

Edited by Chris L
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10 hours ago, Chris L said:

What an AMAZING story! So enjoyed reading and feeling the emotions Jared and Craig were experiencing during it. Thank you so much for a real life, realistic, happy ever after love story!

Thanks, Chris! Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts as you read this. I appreciate your kind words, and am happy you liked it. Cheers... Gary.... :hug: 

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Great story! I love how both of them grow and find happiness .

 

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