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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. Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 

The Empty Spaces Between Us - 18. Chapter 18

“You sure you measured that right,” Tyler asked as he glanced up at Andy.

Andy slowly turned his head, giving Tyler a little half-smirk as he replied in a playfully annoyed tone, “you’re not gonna let me live that down, are you?”

Sean suppressed a smile as he watched the banter back and forth between them. They’d been working on this deck attached the back of a house for three days now. They were delayed for hours when Andy discovered he’d misread the measurements on some of the lumber and he’d cut five boards a foot short of what they needed. It wasn’t a big deal and they fixed it with minimum fuss. But Tyler had been playfully poking Andy about it the last two days.

“Just making sure,” he replied with an innocent look. “We only have so many weeks before winter sets in.”

“Pound some nails before I pound your ass,” Andy said with a grin.

“Technically, I’m putting screws in. Brian probably wouldn’t appreciate you pounding my ass anyway.”

Andy chuckled and shook his head. “I think I need to separate you two,” he muttered.

Tyler had been in a pretty good mood the last month since his visit to his dad’s house. After Alex moved in, their relationship improved and the two of them decided that they would date but that they didn’t want to be out to just anybody. Alex was fine with a few of Tyler’s friends knowing as long as they kept it to themselves for now. While they spent most of their free time together, Tyler often would go spend time with Andy and Brian at their house before going home to Alex.

Andy was made aware of his relationship with Alex. While he’d never met the guy, he did remember seeing someone who fit his description at the bar a couple times. When Tyler told him, he just smiled and shrugged and wished him the best. Andy suggested he not mention Alex to Brian since he has a habit of gossiping. Drake was the only other friend to be informed about dating Alex. He was positive about it and suggested they meet for dinner at some point. When Tyler brought that up to Alex, he didn’t seem all that interested in meeting with anyone together for now at least.

Tyler was coming to realize that, besides going out to the bar a few times a week, Alex was a homebody. After living together for a month, Tyler was learning Alex’s likes and dislikes. It wasn’t that they were complete opposites. They just saw things differently, Tyler concluded. What mattered most was that he knew Alex loved him and Tyler was committed to making this work. He got his second chance and he was going to make sure it wasn’t wasted. Still, despite a few rough patches, Tyler was hopeful he could expand Alex’s idea of a good time. He figured, after watching some of the other relationships his friends had, things may not be perfect between the two of them, but they were far from bad. After some time passed and they got to better know each other, Tyler was sure things would improve.

The three of them worked diligently to complete the deck before the end of the day. With the weather getting colder as November approached, it was only a matter of time before outdoor work became impossible. They did a last inspection and made sure everything was complete before Tyler and Sean started packing up and heading around the front to his truck. “I heard you’re leaving in a few days,” Tyler said to Sean. While he hadn’t avoided Sean since their run in at the club over a month ago, he’d felt awkward around him at work. The awkwardness couldn’t be explained. Things just felt different between them. Whenever they talked, Tyler would get this warm feeling in his chest anytime Sean would smile. He kept going over the night at the club in his head and trying to remember what it was Sean had said. But he couldn’t remember because all he could focus on at the time was how Sean looked.

But now, Sean had no smile on his face as he nodded in confirmation. “Yeah. Friday’s my last day here.”

“Well… hopefully not your last,” he replied. “I mean… maybe you’ll be back next spring? Then you can get your job back.”

Sean smiled a little, but it carried a certain sadness with it as his eyes looked down at the ground. “Maybe. Just depends.”

“Depends on what?”

“On…” he sighed. “Lots of stuff. It’s complicated.”

Tyler smirked. “I hear that a lot.”

Sean stood there and thought about telling him. A part of him wanted to but he didn’t want to risk it. He didn’t want things to change that much. “I have your number. Maybe we can meet up and have a few drinks to ‘celebrate’ my last day on the job.”

“That sounds like a good idea,” Andy said as he walked up behind them both. “We can get some beers, shoot some pool or just watch some basketball on the TV and have a good time.”

Tyler felt Andy’s hand on his shoulder as they exchanged glances. He may be young, but he knew that the look in Andy’s eyes meant he was going no matter what. “Yeah. That’ll be fun. What do ya say, Sean?”

Sean gave Tyler a brilliant smile and said, “definitely sounds like fun.”

“Then we’re all set.” Andy grinned. “Friday night, about an hour and a half after quitting time at The Steel Door.” He gave Tyler’s should a pat. “Hey, real quick, I wanna talk to you before you leave for the day. See you at the office.” He waved to both of them and headed to his truck.

Sean got into Tyler’s truck with him and they set off for the office. “What was that about?”

Tyler got a dismissive look on his face before saying, “not sure, but I got a good idea.”


Tyler rolled his eyes and sighed. “Last weekend I got a text from a mutual friend of ours. Seems he asked his… fuck, I dunno what they were. Boyfriend, ex-boyfriend or something… Anyway, he asked his old flame to marry him and the guy said yes.”

“Well, that’s good news, isn’t it?”

Tyler frowned slightly and shrugged. “I guess. I think he’s rushing into it and, unlike everyone else, I don’t think this asshole walks on water.”

Sean chuckled. “Why is he an asshole?”

“He just is.” He kept his eyes on the road while trying to explain. “I guess they had a falling out like years ago. Like, I was in junior high when the shit hit the fan, I guess. The guy takes off, writes off his friends, his boyfriend and his dad. No one hears shit from him for years. He finally shows back up and then a few months later, Jacob’s proposing to him?”

“Well…” Sean’s cheeks flushed slightly. “If you love someone, you do whatever you need to do to get them back.”

“Maybe,” he conceded. “I’ve never talked to the guy. I saw him once, that was it. Don’t think he knew I could see him. He was standing in the window looking out at me and Jacob, glaring like a pissed off teacher.”

Sean looked at him dubiously. “You almost sound jealous.”

“Jealous of what?”

“Of this guy marrying your friend.”

Tyler chuckled. “Maybe just a little bit. Truth is, I’ve never known how to flirt with Jacob. I tried a couple times, but I think I was too scared or something.”

Sean shrugged. “You probably just didn’t want to ruin the friendship.”

“What do you mean?”

“Sometimes, when you go from being friends to dating, it’s not always easy to go back.”

Tyler hadn’t thought of that. The only experience he had that was even close was with Drake. But they weren’t really dating. Just being friends who happen to have sex for a while. “Well, whatever it is, I just don’t want Jacob making a big mistake.”

Sean smiled and said nothing more about it the rest of the trip back to the office. Once they were there, they both finished their paperwork and Sean said goodnight to him before leaving. Tyler waited around for a few minutes before Andy appeared from the hallway. He didn’t stop until he got to the back exit and looked over at Tyler. “Come on. I wanna show you something.”

Tyler followed behind him out to his truck. He smirked a little when he noticed Andy seemed to be walking a little faster than usual and his entire body seemed buzzing with barely contained excitement. When he reached his friend, he stopped just behind him as Andy opened his door and started looking around for something. “It’s not pot, is it?”

“No,” he said with a chuckle. “Better.”

“Meth?” He grinned, waiting to see the look of disapproval.

“you’re such a turd.” Andy finally found what he was looking for and turned to face him. “I haven’t told anyone yet. So, keep this to yourself.”

Tyler looked down at Andy’s open hand and saw a ring sitting in a box. The gemstone looked like a diamond with two small light blue stones on either side. They were set in a silver looking metal ring. “What the fuck, dude?”

“What? You don’t like it?”

“It’s… huge. What’s it for?”

Andy grinned and said in a quiet voice. “It’s for Bri.”

Tyler looked up into his eyes. “Are you…” He stopped himself because he saw how happy Andy looked in that moment. Just like Jacob, it seemed Andy had already made up his mind about how he wanted the rest of his life to go. Meanwhile, it took him forever just to get Alex to come back and stay with him. “You’re gonna propose to him?”

He nodded. “Eventually. Sometime in the next few weeks. I’ve been looking for a house for us to move into. I think I found the perfect one.” He looked back down at the ring. “The boys… they can have their own rooms. And there’ll be plenty of space I can have people over for cookouts and stuff. And it’ll be ours.” He clutched the box in his fist and looked up at Tyler again. “So? What do you think?”

Tyler looked into his eyes and saw, what looked like to him, a little kid looking for a sign of approval. In that moment, he looked more like Blake than he ever has. It was like dealing with his father again. There was nothing he could do to stop it. The only thing he could do is accept it and hope for the best. “I think I’m very happy for you.” Not knowing what else to do or say, he leaned in and hugged Andy.

Andy chuckled but hugged him back warmly. “Thanks. Just keep it to yourself for now. I wanna surprise him.”

“He’s gonna be a lucky guy.”

Andy grinned. “Yeah. He is damn lucky, isn’t he?”

Tyler laughed and let go of him. “Yeah, whatever. I know he’ll say yes. He loves you more than you know.” Andy smirked and blushed a little which only made Tyler laugh more. “Go home. I need to get cleaned up, make dinner and call my dad before Alex gets home.”

“How is your dad doing?”

Tyler lost some of his smile and nodded. “He’s fine. Doing as good as can be expected.”

“You gonna go visit him again? You seemed to look a little better when you came back from your last trip.”

Tyler swallowed a catch in his throat. “N-no. He, ah… He’s selling the house, so there wouldn’t be anywhere for me to stay if I did go visit.”

Andy looked at him with concern. “Is everything alright? How come he’s selling his house if he’s sick?”

He didn’t want to ruin Andy’s mood and he didn’t want to dwell on it. He had called his father nearly every day since he got back from Trenton. It had been over a month now and he was still hanging on. But Tyler couldn’t bring himself to admit that he sounded a little weaker each time. “It’s just for the best, really.” He didn’t understand why he wasn’t telling Andy that his dad was going to die soon. Right now, he just wanted to keep it private. “I need to get going.”

Andy gave him a dubious look and nodded. “Okay, bro. See you later. And don’t forget about Friday night.”

Tyler smirked. “I’ll be there. See ya.” He turned and headed over to his truck. By the time he got the door closed and the engine started, his eyes were already starting to feel moist.




Tyler thought it was odd when he got home and found Alex’s car parked in the driveway. Normally, he’d be at work for awhile hour and Tyler would have the place to himself so he could clean up and talk to his dad. Since he was in the driveway, Tyler was forced to park on the street and carry his stuff up the drive and to the door. When he tried to open the door, carrying the cooler he always took with him to work in both hands, he found the door was locked. He put the cooler down and used his keys to unlock the door. When he stumbled in, pulling his cooler in with him, he found Alex lounging on the couch playing a video game.

“How come the door was locked,” he asked as he went through the room, heading to the kitchen.

Alex shrugged, keeping his eyes on the screen. “Habit, I guess,” he replied with a casual tone that made it sound like he was barely paying attention. “I’m used to locking doors behind me.”

Tyler frowned to himself and let that drop. “How come you’re home so early?”

“Oh. Just didn’t have much work at the shop, so I kicked off early.”

Tyler walked back into the front room and looked at him. Alex’s gaze never wavered from the screen. He sighed and said, “I’m gonna take a shower and then I need to call my dad.”

“When’s dinner?”

“When you decide to get up and make it,” Tyler said flippantly as he went to the back of the house to get a change of clothes and head into the bathroom. He didn’t spend much time showering and drying off, knowing his dad was going to be expecting him to call any minute now. He threw his clothes on made a perfunctory effort to fix his hair. Before long, he’d need to get it cut.

When he opened the bathroom door, Alex was standing there waiting for him with his arms crossed over his chest. “Why are you being so mean to me today?”

Tyler looked up into Alex’s eyes and saw the sad look in his eyes. It made him feel bad for being so dismissive. “I’m just tired. It was a long day at work, and I need to call my dad now before it’s too late.”

“Okay,” he replied. “I’ll go find something to eat then.” Without another word said, Alex walked away, looking like a puppy that had just been kicked.

Tyler frowned, not enjoying the feeling of guilt he was having. “Wait. Just give me a few minutes to talk to my dad and then I’ll cook us something.”

“Just call your dad,” Alex replied. “I’ll do what I can.”

He watched Alex disappear into the kitchen, knowing he’d lost this round. Sometimes, their relationship felt like a competition between each other. It didn’t feel right, and he wasn’t sure what to do or say half the time. But he didn’t have time for that. He headed into the spare bedroom for some privacy and called his dad’s number.

He closed the door and sat down on the floor since there was nothing to sit on, leaning against the wall as he listened to the phone ring, waiting for it to be picked up. As the phone rang, his anxiety started to rise. In two breaths, the thought that there would be no answer started to creep into his mind. That there would be no answer today or ever again. His throat started to feet tight and he tried to will his dad to answer the phone.

Just as he thought it was going to go to voicemail, the ringing stopped. There was a prolonged silence until he heard a whispered voice. “Ty…Tyler…”

He breathed again, feeling his anxiety ebb. “Hey, Dad.”

“Sorry… It hasn’t been a good day.”

His own discomfort was forgotten as he tried to grasp onto each word he could barely hear. “Do you want me to call back tomorrow? I don’t want to wear you out.”

“No… no…” He heard his father take a labored breath. “I just… I’m so sorry, son.” Tyler could hear the tears in his voice and knew it was genuine. “I wish we had more time.”

He swallowed the lump in his throat, not wanting his dad to hear his own sadness. He needed to be strong for him. “It’s okay. I’m just glad we got to see each other and talk.” Tyler wasn’t even sure what he was saying was the truth. All he wanted right now was for his dad’s suffering to stop. “Maybe after Thanksgiving I can come and visit again. I should have some free time then.” Rationally, he knew that it would be a minor miracle if his father lived that long. But he didn’t want to give up hope yet.

“I’d love that.” There was another long pause before he heard a shuddering breath. “I wish I had never listened to her. I should have never let her get in between us. I should have been your dad… not just someone who paid child support.”

Real pain stabbed his heart as tears rolled down his face. He realized that’s what he’d been wanting to hear this entire time. That it wasn’t just lip service or guilt that was prompting his dad. That it was someone else who took his father away from him and left him alone and confused as to why he had been abandoned. He wished they had more time to sort it all out. “None of it matters anymore, Dad. Just… just hang in there for a little while longer. Okay?”

“I’m so tired, Tyler…”

“Then you should get some rest.”

There was another prolonged silence and Tyler wondered if he’s lost him. Then the voice of a man who was tired of fighting for each breath he took returned. “I love you… my son.”

He couldn’t hide his tears and he choked out. “I love you too.”

The call ended and Tyler dropped the phone onto the floor and covered his head with his arms as he sat there and quietly wept. It felt so cruel to almost get his dad back only to know he was going to be gone again and there would be no more second chances or reconciliations. All they had was one day. Followed by another. And another. Until it was done. He hadn’t expected to feel this loss so profoundly. He’d told himself year after year that he never cared about his dad or what happened to him. But the truth is, no matter what, he was still his father and he wanted that person back with him. The knowledge that it was hopeless was too much for him to bear and he sat there, choking back his tears so he wouldn’t be overheard. He didn’t want to share this grief with anyone, not even Alex. This was something he couldn’t bear to be seen by anyone.

He gave himself a few minutes to get his tears to stop. Then he cleared his nose as best he could and wiped his face. Another moment to make sure he was okay before Tyler stepped out into the hallway and slipped back into the bathroom to wash his face and hope he didn’t look like he had just been balling his eyes out for five minutes. His eyes were a little puffy and red but there wasn’t much he could do for that. He’ll just have to live with it and hope it doesn’t start another conversation he’d rather avoid.

Alex was quietly sitting on the couch, watching a movie as he went into the kitchen. When he got in there, he realized he wanted to do this just to get his mind off his dad’s situation. It was completely out of his control now and no amount of anguish or tears were going to solve it. He remembered what his Aunt Julie told him. This was the end of his dad’s life. While he screwed up plenty of it, the least he could do was ease his passing a little. He’d worry about the rest after that time came.

Tyler busied himself around the kitchen, getting the dinner ready for the two of them. Some of Andy’s advice about cooking came to mind and he put it to the best use he could. He knew eventually he’d probably want to ask Andy more and maybe, if he was feeling a little more confident next year, get himself a grill and see if he could mimic some of Andy’s abilities.

He was nearly done when Alex came into the kitchen and slid his arms around his waist. “Everything okay,” he asked as he leaned down near Tyler’s ear.

Tyler smiled, feeling comforted by his touch. “Yeah. I’ll be done here in a few minutes.”

“I’ll get the plates then.” He gave Tyler a peck on the cheek before getting plates and utensils ready for them both.

That helped settle his heart. Tyler sighed as his smile improved quite a bit. Whatever may happen, at least he’ll have Alex with him. Together, the two of them filled their plates and got something to drink before going into the front room and eating a well cooked meal.




Andy had just finished up cleaning the kitchen after dinner and was getting ready to step outside for some “fresh air” when his phone rang. He glanced down at the screen and smirked when he saw the name, “Sgt. Cocksucker.” He quickly stepped into the garage and out the backdoor to the yard before answering. “Hey, dipshit,” he said with a smile.

“Andy. How the hellav’ya been,” came the response.

Andy smirk faltered a little as he answered back, “oh, pretty good. What’s the special occasion?”

“How’s your family? Wife and kids?”

Andy’s smirk was gone. “Divorced last May. Kids are doing great. Nick, what’s going on?”

There was a pause before his friend said in a more reserved tone, “I got a call this morning. We lost Archie last night.”

Andy walked around the side of the house against the garage, so he was out of sight from the windows before he knelt in the grass. “What happened?”

“He swallowed his gun. Middle of the night. His girlfriend must’ve been passed out because she didn’t find him until morning in the back of his garage.”

Memories of a smart-assed red head with a bulky frame and great aim went through his mind. With that face came the sound of gunfire, an explosion and a burst of pain in his left thigh that felt so real his hand automatically pressed down over it. “Was…” He took a breath and pushed past the pain in his thigh. “Was there a message? I-I-I mean… did he leave a note or… something…?”

His friend’s voice held a tint of remorse. “She didn’t say, bud. I’m real sorry. Wasn’t he the one who dragged you out?”

Andy squeezed his eyes shut and focused on making the pain go away. “Yeah. Probably would’ve been torn up more than I was if he hadn’t tackled me and pulled me behind the Bradley.”

“Yeah. That’s what I thought I remembered.” The voice on the other end sighed. “That’s the third one in three years. How are you holding up? Did you say you got divorced?”

Andy tried to grin, but his bottom lip wouldn’t stop trembling. “Yeah. But that was for the best. She was a cunt. I got someone new now.”

“Well, good. Anything I should know?”

“Yeah,” he said with a laugh even as he wiped the wetness off his cheeks. “It’s a guy this time.”

“No shit?!”

“No shit.”

The guy laughed. “Well, I guess that’s good news. I guess Brandon really rubbed off on you.”

Andy pulled the phone away from his face and barely suppressed a sob before pulling into himself and resting his back against the side of the garage and got his voice back to normal. “Yeah. You could say that, I guess.”

“Well, I’m glad for you then. Should call the Major and tell him.”

“I’ll think about it.” He needed to end this call or Nick was going to keep him on the phone forever and he needed to get away from it. “Hey, I hate to cut you short, but I gotta get the boys in bed here soon. Tell Archie’s family I’m sorry for their loss. I’d go to the funeral but I’m in Pennsylvania and they’re in Oregon.”

“It’s cool bud. I’ll add you to the list when I go. Say hi to the kids for me and hopefully I’ll have good news next time I call.”

“You fuckin’ better.”

“Okay. Later.”

Andy ended the call and sat there with his legs pulled up against him as he absorbed the news. It wasn’t the first call like that he got, and it probably wouldn’t be the last. He stared down at the green grass around him and tried to focus on something else. It was almost the end of October and the night was mostly quiet. Archie and Andy. The “double A’s” of the team. If Archie hadn’t dragged him to safety back then, he may not be here now. Or have both legs. And he’d acted like it was no big deal at the time. “Last thing I want is hearing you bitch the rest of your life that I wasn’t fast enough,” he’d said with a grin. Now he was just gone. Erased from everyone’s lives like he hadn’t done a thing.

He finally forced himself onto his feet to go back in the garage and grab his stash. Normally, he’d stay near the windows and doors in the back with the lights off to keep at least one ear on the boys in case anything happened. But Brian was in there with them now, so he could disappear for a few minutes and take a few hits until the pain in his thigh and his chest went away. He pulled his hitter out and packed the pot in and lit it up. The first toke was enough to quiet everything in his head enough that the memory of Archie’s face receded into the background. Three minutes and two more tokes later, he felt normal. He guessed he wouldn’t sound or act normal, but he didn’t care. A few minutes of walking around, get his smile back and cuddle up with Brian and he wouldn’t care.

He sat there on the ground a few more minutes to make sure he was fine before getting up and stumbling back into the garage. He hid his stash back in its old coffee tin before heading inside. A detour through the front room took him into the bedroom so he could change. Andy felt the need to get out of the clothes he had been in most of the day. Even though it was getting colder, he opted to just pull on a pair of nylon shorts. He knew he wouldn’t need anything else and he was almost certain Brian would approve. A smirk crossed his face before he exited the room and walked back to the living room where Brian and his boys were.

Brian was laying with his back against the arm rest of the couch, watching “The Little Mermaid” with Tanner and Blake laying on the floor underneath him. He watched Andy approach and was about to move to make room for him when Andy laid down on top of him, resting his head on Brian’s chest. In that moment, it felt like the perfect place to be.

“Where’ve you been?”

Andy closed his eyes and enjoyed a small smile as he replied, “oh, just outside, enjoying the cool night.”

Brian snorted. “Yeah right. How come you smoke so much? You never smoked pot when we were in school.”

Andy shrugged. “I just like it.”

Brian frowned a little. “It’s not that I care that much. I just worry about the boys. What if a cop catches you stoned?”

“It’s okay,” he mumbled. “I got it covered.”

Brian sighed. “Alright. I’ll stop pestering you about it.”

“I don’t mind.” The sound of Brian’s voice was soothing to him. It reminded him of swimming pools. Nights spent playing video games. Sitting together at lunch. Laughter. The look on his face, right before Andy worked up the courage to kiss him in the back of Troy’s SUV.

“You’re also high.”

“Yeah, but I love you.”

Brian giggled. “What’s that got to do with you being high?”

Andy sighed and wrapped his arms around his human pillow. “Everything.”

Brian ran his fingers through Andy’s long blonde hair. “If you say so.”

They laid there together and watched the rest of the movie in a comfortable silence. When it ended, Andy stretched and extracted himself from Brian’s arms. “I’m gonna put the boys to bed. Then you’re next.”

Brian gave him a suggestive smirk and remained on the couch. Andy scooped up Blake in his arms and carried the giggling boy into the back of the house with Tanner following behind. Andy carried Blake to his bed and carefully laid him down onto his bed, pulling the blankets over him as he knelt on the floor next to him. “Well, little man, you’ve gone a whole week staying in your bed all by yourself. I guess that means you’ll be all grown up and moving out in a month or two.”

Blake laughed and shook his head. “No, daddy. Staying with you.”

“Darn right you are,” he replied as he straightened the child’s red hair. “Who loves you more than I do?”

“No one,” Blake replied with a happy smile.

Andy’s smile took on a melancholy look as he gazed down at him. “Never forget that. No matter what happens. Okay?”

Blake nodded and Andy turned to look at his first born who was already in bed, looking over at him expectantly. Andy crawled over to him and leaned over him until their noses nearly touched. “Man, you got this whole, ‘getting into bed thing’ all worked out, don’t you?”

Tanner smirked as his bright blue eyes looked up at his dad. “I think I got the hang of it.”

“Does that mean you don’t need me for the other stuff too?”

The boy shook his head. “No.”

“Good.” He leaned up and kissed Tanner’s forehead. “I love you. Do me a favor and slow down this whole growing up thing. I wanna enjoy it a little longer.”

Tanner chuckled. “Good night, Dad.”

“Goodnight, son.” He rose to his feet and headed to the door.

Just before he turned off the light, Tanner looked up and said, “Dad, you forgot?”

“Forgot what?”

The boy sighed. “What do we say when we get through another day?”

Blake instantly piped up, “Oohrah!”

“Oohrah, Dad.”

Andy smirked. He was glad he still felt a little bit of the pot from earlier otherwise he might be in tears. “Oohrah. Go to bed.” He turned off the light and quietly shut the door before returning to the front of the house.

“I’m ready for bed now,” Brian said in a sweet voice, grinning up at him.

Andy stood over him in front of the couch and grinned. “You want me to pick you up and carry you there?”

“Yes, please,” he replied holding out his arms.

Andy chuckled and laid back down on top of him but kept his weight on his arms resting on either side of him. “I’ll think about it when the time comes.”

Brian laughed softly as he leaned up to kiss him. They shared a couple more kisses before Andy let himself partially rest on top of Brian. “I got a question for you,” he said after they got comfortable again.

Andy looked into his eyes, loving how he looked in that moment. “Shoot.”

“How serious were you when you mentioned wanting to move Tanner up a grade?”

That was a question he wasn’t expecting, and it showed in his face, much to Brian’s amusement. “Well, I mean, it would help. He missed out on a year because Stacy screwed up and he ended up getting held back a year. He should be in the same class as Chase and I think it bothers him that he isn’t.”

Brian rolled his eyes. “She’s such a bitch. I’m not sure if we can get him moved up this year. But, I bet, once I’m done at the university, I can spend some time with him, and we can see about getting him up to third grade next year instead of second. How’s that sound?”

Andy’s sly, half-smirk appear as he looked into his lover’s eyes. “Sounds like you’re a parent.”

Brian shot him a ‘fuck you’ look with a little smirk. “I’m a teacher. It’s what I do.”

“Either way, sounds like a long-term commitment.”

“You just love hearing me say that I like your kids, don’t you?”

“I do.” He gave into the temptation to kiss Brian’s cheek. “Means they’ll always have you to rely on.”

“Oh, like you’re just gonna stand in the corner and just watch him grow up and run off to college and knock up the first co-ed he meets, not unlike his father…”

“I’m gonna have to plead temporary insanity on that.”

Brian shrugged and grinned. “Doesn’t matter. You’re all mine now anyway.”

“And on that note…” Andy slowly got back on his feet and grinned down at Brian before leaning over to pick him up in his arms.

Brian put his arms around Andy’s neck and looked up at him lovingly. “Doesn’t matter how much I teach them. You’re always going to be their hero.”

Andy didn’t reply. He carried Brian back into their bedroom and laid him down on the bed before turning off the lights and joining him. The high he felt earlier had faded and he could feel unwanted memories coming up to the surface again. He felt Brian lay next to him and cuddle against him. Andy laid on his side, pulling the blankets over them and buried his face in the back of Brian’s head. He inhaled that comforting smell and felt the memories recede into the back of his mind again.

Brian lay there and felt Andy’s hand seem to shake for a moment in the darkness. “Is everything okay?”

“Yeah,” he replied with a sigh. “Couldn’t be better.”

Brian wasn’t completely convinced. But he had his back to him, and it was dark. He had had a long day and he had a long drive to work in the morning, so he let it drop. “Okay, baby. Goodnight.”

Andy laid there quietly, waiting. He knew sleep would be hard to find tonight while his thoughts were with a good friend who was gone now. The sound of Brian’s breathing reminded him of what he had. He tried to remember the last time they spoke. On the phone. Over Facebook. He hadn’t seemed that far gone. Like he still had hope, no matter what was going on in his life. Now that life was over, leaving everyone who had loved him to wonder what they could have done to stop it.

He laid there, remembering all their times together while in Afghanistan. He tried to focus on the good memories but too many bad one’s leaked out along the way. Eventually, fatigue set in and he let it take him away from his memories. Before he fell asleep, his last thought was of a gun in a case that used to be in his closet. A part of him wished it was still there.




Tyler got out of his truck and headed into The Steel Door with Alex right behind him. He checked a sigh as Alex walked past him and opened the door for him. Despite his polite gesture, Tyler knew he didn’t want to come when he heard it was for someone else. Sometimes, it was hard to understand Alex. He could have stayed home. In fact, Tyler told him he didn’t have to come because it wasn’t a big deal. A part of him wished he hadn’t come but he wouldn’t say that out loud. Why Alex insisted on accompanying him, he didn’t know. He just hoped things didn’t get awkward.

Tyler stepped inside and headed up to the bar, scanning the room as he went. He spotted Andy along with Sean sitting at a table in the corner on the far side of the room from the pool tables. He figured Alex wouldn’t be happy with that arrangement. Alex liked being near the tables and getting in a game or two. “There they are,” he said as he nodded in that direction.

Alex didn’t frown or seem put out as Tyler expected. “You said you told this Andy guy about us,” he asked in a quiet voice.

Tyler nodded. “Yeah. He’s cool. Got his own boyfriend.”

Alex made an approving grunt and got his beer. “Well, let’s go say hi.”

Tyler followed Alex as he led the way to the table where his friends were sitting. He was a little surprised by Alex’s sudden change of attitude. Maybe it meant he would soften up a little bit. “Hey guys,” Tyler greeted his friends as he and Alex joined them.

Andy and Sean turned their heads. Sean’s smile seemed to fade as he took in the sight of Tyler and Alex sitting down at the table next to each other. Alex moved his seat closer to Tyler’s before settling in. “This is Alex. Alex, these are my friends, Andy and Sean. Sean’s done working and heading out of town soon.”

Andy nodded at the taller man while Sean managed a small smile. He couldn’t understand why, but Tyler felt unsettled with Alex and Sean together. “So, when are you planning on taking off, Sean,” Alex asked.

“Oh, ah… I’m leaving here in the morning. Going to spend tomorrow in Pittsburgh.” Sean’s eyes flicked to Tyler and back to Alex. “Then, I get on a plane headed home.”

“You’ll be back,” Andy said with more assurance than Tyler felt.

Sean smiled. “Maybe. I liked being here.”

“Even in the ungodly heat of summer up on a roof,” Andy asked with a grin.

Sean chuckled. “Yeah.” His eyes went to Tyler. “Yeah. I had a great time.”

Tyler smiled at the thought of Sean coming back eventually. “Well, just need to keep in touch, I guess.”

Alex smirked and patted Tyler on the back. “From the sounds of it, he’ll probably be too busy to stay in touch with the likes of us.”

Sean shrugged. “Texting is no big deal. I’m starving. Let’s eat.”

The four of them ordered dinner and sat around talking amiably over the din of the other patrons that night. Occasionally, one of them would be watching the basketball game on the screens above them and make a few comments. Sean followed along with the conversations and he noted Alex seemed to almost hover over Tyler. But the atmosphere between Tyler and Andy gave him a sense of comradery that he rarely felt back home. He would need to figure out a way how to come back.

Alex stepped away from the table to use the bathroom. After he was far enough away, Sean said to Tyler, “I’ll text you, so we stay in touch, if you want.”

Tyler smiled and nodded. “Sure. Then I’ll know when to expect to see you when you show back up next Spring.”

Sean grinned. “Awesome. How’s your dad been? Any news?”

Tyler’s smile faded a little. “He’s not doing so great. The last few times I called him he couldn’t talk for long. It wears him out. I called my Aunt Julie before we came here to get an update on him. She said he’s got more problems, but he seems like he’ll last a little longer.”

“You planning on visiting him again?”

Tyler’s lips form a half-frown at the idea. “I might. But… I mean, we settled some things. But I still don’t feel a lot of closeness with him, you know? He’s trying and all, but I’m just not sure if I wanna deal with the fallout of what’s gonna happen.”

Sean nodded in sympathy. “I’m sure you’ll do the right thing.”

Tyler blushed a little at that. “Thanks.” He glanced over at Andy who seemed to be staring at nothing. “Hey, you, Boss man. Where’s your head?”

Andy smirked and shook his head. “Just wondering what I’m gonna come home too. I got this picture in my mind of Bri tied up to a chair and the boys running around him.”

Tyler laughed. “Tanner and Blake would never do something like that.”

Sean grinned. “They sound cute.”

“They’re cuter than he is,” Tyler said, pointing his thumb at Andy.

Andy gave him an indignant look as he replied, “hey, Tanner looks just like me.”

Tyler smirked. “Okay, well, I can’t deny that. Blake’s adorable, though.”

“Be careful about that,” Andy warned. “Don’t let him know or else he’ll be giving you puppy dog eyes while he’s asking you for all your money.”

Tyler and Sean laughed as Alex came back up to the table. “What’s so funny?”

“Andy and his kids,” Tyler replied.

“Dunno how anyone wants to put up with a kid. Much less two,” Alex remarked.

Andy shrugged. “Not a big deal. If you make ‘em, you gotta keep ‘em.”

“Not sure I’d have the patience for it.”

“You don’t want to have kids,” Tyler asked him curiously.

Alex shrugged. “Hadn’t given it much thought. Do you want kids, Sean?”

Sean was caught off guard with Alex suddenly asking him a question. “Uh… maybe someday. When I’m ready.”

“Wish I’d waited that long,” Andy remarked. “Or at least found a better mom.”

Tyler looked at him sympathetically. “You did find a better mom; Brian.”

That got a laugh out of Andy as loud as when he was high that first night at his place drinking beer and eating pizza. A part of Tyler missed doing that with him. But he understood with Brian in the picture now, Andy’s focus was on him and getting ready to propose. Besides, he had Alex to keep him company.

After some another hour of talking between them, Sean announced he needed to go. He gave Tyler another bright smile and promised he would hear from him soon before he left. Andy gave Tyler and his boyfriend a smirk and decided to head home to spend some time with Brian, leaving Alex and Tyler to head home themselves.

“You seemed to be having a good time,” Tyler said with a smile to Alex as they headed back to their truck.

“I wanted to have a good time with you,” he replied. “I figure we can have a good time ourselves in bed when we get home.”

Tyler chuckled and got in the truck and drove them home. “I’ll admit, I’m gonna miss Sean. But he’ll be back I think.”

Alex sighed and shook his head. “Babe… he’s not coming back. And you’ll probably never hear from him again.”

Tyler’s smile faded as he asked, “what makes you think that?”

Alex chuckled ruefully. “Sometimes, you can be so naïve. He was just being polite. I’m betting he’s got a wife or whatever ‘back home’ or something else that’s gonna take over his life. He’s not gonna want to hang out in a shithole town with a bunch of losers.”

“For all you know, he’s going back to a shithole town,” Tyler countered.

“Fine,” Alex said a little harshly. “Don’t believe me. Don’t come crying to me when it’s been two months and you haven’t heard a word from him.”

Tyler sighed and didn’t say anything else the rest of the trip home. Sometimes, it was just best to let Alex have his way and not start an argument.

After they got home, Alex was quick to pull Tyler into the bedroom. It didn’t take him long to make Tyler forget about the caustic words in the truck before he had Tyler naked and underneath him. The sex was very intense and passionate until they both reach their climax clinging to each other. After the day at work and being out, the sex was enough to wear Tyler out and he was asleep not long after.

Alex laid there next to him dozing when he heard a phone beep. He opened his eyes and saw the screen on Tyler’s phone lit up. Carefully reaching across Tyler’s sleeping form, he grabbed the phone and unlocked it to see the message it had received.

‘Really glad we got to hang out one more time before I leave. Hope to hear from you soon.’

Alex stared at the message for a moment before deleting it. He opened Tyler’s contacts and edited Sean’s number, changing one of the numbers before closing it and putting the phone back where it had been laying. Once the room was dark again, he laid down and quickly fell asleep.

Copyright © 2019 Jdonley75; 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. Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 
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Chapter Comments

2 minutes ago, chris191070 said:

Alex is an evil SOB.

Well,  SOB yeah...  But evil?  I wouldn't....  I mean... He's sort of....

Okay, yeah, I guess so...

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R.I.P. Archie.

Tyler’s dad was still hanging on but it looks like the end is coming for him, too.

I wonder why Andy misses his gun, does it make him feel secure or does he wish it were around during his bad moments (which we know would make it worse).  I liked that Brian is also another high for Andy, that family of four makes me happy.

The saying goes if you don’t have anything good to say about someone, say nothing at all....that’s my new protocol with Alex.  🤐

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11 hours ago, ninecila said:

I knew I didn‘t like Alex - he gave me a bad feeling from the scene in the supermarket and since he is back the impression did not improve it got worse. I hope Tyler notices soon that Alex is bad news and breaks or off before he gets hurt too badly.

And I hope he somehow manages to get back in touch with Sean.

I think I said before that Alex is going to be an important player as far as what kind of a person Tyler becomes.  If that's going to be a good thing or a bad thing is going to be up to him.

I could be wrong, but it seems that Sean is leaving town.  You know what they say about the road not taken...

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11 hours ago, Andre Delport said:

I knew it!! Knew he was a no good piece of ....... (Ok, I'll calm down). Jonathan, I hope you have someone really special lined up for Tyler. What more does the poor guy have to go through? Almost all he's had in life has been hard.  Now he's going to get his heart broken .... again.  And that on top of whats happening with his dad. Give the guy a break please.

Is there anyone special enough for my Tyler?  Doubtful. ;)   Tyler is going through a lot, yes.  It seems he can never catch a break.   But, that could change.  And for the record, the story is about all these moments in his life.  How they interconnect and how he learns to deal with them.  I promise, you'll be pleased with the results. :) 

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9 hours ago, Kitt said:

Ooooo what a little shit!  

35 years of marriage and my husband would NEVER  consider a low down trick like that!

I know, right?  Alex is just about the worst kind of person in the world.  He can be very charming and very fun to be with.  But ultimately he only cares about himself.

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7 hours ago, jaysalmn said:

I knew Alex was a POS!! I hope Tyler figures out what he did sooner than later!

Tyler is a trusting person.  He sees all of Alex's good qualities and tries his best to ignore the bad.  He'll never even expect Alex would do something like that to him.

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6 hours ago, Parker Owens said:

Alex is a sour, jealous guy. I wonder how long it will be before he breaks Tyler’s heart again? Sean is right to get away, though. Andy and Brian are going to be a fantastic couple; and Andy needs Brian, as you so amply demonstrate. Well done. 

I think everyone's a little too worried about Tyler's heart breaking.  He's probably tougher than you think.

Andy and Brian are a good couple.  However, Andy is hiding things from him and came very close to outright lying to him.  Things look great on the surface but poke a little below it and you'll see a lot of potential problems for them.  Luckily, unlike Tyler, they know when to ask for help.

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58 minutes ago, FanLit said:

R.I.P. Archie.

Tyler’s dad was still hanging on but it looks like the end is coming for him, too.

I wonder why Andy misses his gun, does it make him feel secure or does he wish it were around during his bad moments (which we know would make it worse).  I liked that Brian is also another high for Andy, that family of four makes me happy.

The saying goes if you don’t have anything good to say about someone, say nothing at all....that’s my new protocol with Alex.  🤐

Tyler's dad is holding on.  But that never lasts.

I have no earthly idea why he misses it unless he is, as you say, wanting that quick fix to all his problems that never really solves the problems.  Also, Andy and Brian's discussion about him being high was Andy giving Brian the verbal run around so he wouldn't ask too many questions about why he was out toking up for so long.  Or who called him earlier.  Or how come you insisted you put the boys to bed when you know you're high and you know you shouldn't when you're high.  Again, they look great on the surface.  But Andy needs to start to open up to Brian more.

Don't worry about saying bad things about Alex.  It's gonna happen, I promise.

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1 hour ago, FanLit said:

I can’t wait.


17 hours ago, spikey582 said:

Maybe he’ll get hit by a bus and the world will rejoice.

I feel the need to emphasize this.  He will not be hit by a bus.


But he'll wish he had...


Edited by Jdonley75
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