The Empty Spaces Between Us - 22. Chapter 22
The weather was a little warm for late-March but only just barely when Tyler pulled up onto the driveway at the Howard home. Officially, he’d been working there for two weeks and he had been learning some things from Jacob, but he still felt horrible about leaving his job at Sam’s. Dex had quit the day after Tyler confronted him. He offered no explanation, leaving everyone guessing as to what happened to make him want to suddenly walk away from his job. It wasn’t long after that when the whispers began. At first Tyler thought he could live with it. But the longer it went on, the more uncomfortable he got with the stares from the other guys he worked with.
It all became too much when he’d heard Neal whispering to one of the older guys who immediately started to glare at him from across the break room. That was when Tyler no longer felt safe at work. He knew, of course, the right thing to do would have been to report the problem to Sam and have it put to a stop. But Tyler reasoned by that point it would have been too little, too late. He kept his mouth shut, ignored what was going on around him and just get through the days until he could figure out something else.
It wasn’t long after that that Alex started to be more open about his own sexuality. He told his parents who were less than thrilled, and he openly talked about “his boyfriend” at the shop he worked at. He got a better reception than Tyler did, according to him. He wasn’t sure how true that was but what mattered was that it was out. He still hadn’t heard from Drake and almost went to The Steel Door to see him, but Alex would always come up with some excuse to get him to stay home. Tyler had also started to develop a fear of going out to places like that where anyone who had any homophobic tendencies could be right there in the same room with him.
It was a blessing that Jacob came back from his time in Harrisburg when he did. And after a few weeks of him getting back to work, he let it be known he was looking for an employee to help him in his workshop. Tyler was all too happy to ask about the position and let Jacob know he was interested.
“It probably won’t pay as much,” Jacob cautioned. “It’ll be a lot of grunt work. Cutting, going over notes and learning how to do some of the less complicated stuff.”
“That’s fine,” Tyler replied. Inwardly, he was fretting about the lost pay. But he still had Alex in the house and while their relationship wasn’t perfect, it had settled a little more. He wasn’t happy, but he was learning to live with what he had instead of having nothing at all.
In the two weeks he’d been there, he was making far less than before. In time, he was going to have to rely more and more on Alex. When the two of them talked about it, Alex seemed to take pity on him, and they agreed to make it work. Tyler had no choice but to start letting Alex make more and more decisions. Deep down, he knew he was going to regret it.
Tyler got out of the truck and headed up the ramp to the house. One bonus to his new job was the free breakfast. “Good morning,” Tyler said as he stepped inside the back door to the sound of bacon cooking on the stove.
As he looked around the kitchen, he noticed Jacob was absent. “Good morning, Tyler.” He smirked looking at the smiling little toddler sitting at the table with a bowl of scrambled eggs in front of him.
“Hey, squirt.” Tyler met Matt soon after he moved in when Jacob came home. He had to admit, the boy was adorable. Very personable and outgoing. Tyler learned he loved to talk and ask questions. The downside of that was discovering he had a knack for repeating what he heard which forced Tyler to heavily censor himself. He noticed the boy seemed to be a little more animated than usual. Also, Jacob was missing which seemed out of the ordinary. “Where’s Jacob,” he asked David as he sat down.
Without turning his head, David answered, “still asleep, I think. He had…” He paused and chuckled to himself. “He had a long night.”
That sounded odd, but Tyler let it go. “So, what do you have planned while I’m working today, Matt?”
Matt smiled brightly and replied, “gonna play with daddy today.”
Tyler was a little confused. Sure, it was cute that he called Jacob “daddy” now that he and Kyle were getting ready to be married. But he knew Kyle was still in Harrisburg. He actually saw him on the television last night when the announcement was made that that cop who killed his girlfriend apparently didn’t actually do it. Tyler shrugged, figuring Matt was just having wishful thinking or was just confused. “Well, that sounds like a fun time for you.” He hoped Matt wasn’t serious. If Jacob was just going to play with his kid all day, that was going to call his job into question.
David put a plate in front of Tyler and smiled. “You can get your own drink. Got orange juice in the fridge or coffee, if you want.”
“Thanks.” He said with a smile before getting up to pour himself a cup of coffee. He’d just gotten the sugar and cream and sat back down before he heard the sound of footsteps coming down the stairs. “Looks like it’ll be a nice day out,” he commented as he returned to his seat.
“Oh, it’s gonna be a great day.” David was grinning to himself, happier than he’s looked for as long as Tyler could remember.
Just as Tyler looked up from his plate, the footsteps got closer. “Good morning, Dad.” The voice was not Jacob’s and his eyes froze as Kyle stepped into the kitchen wearing only a pair of boxer briefs that left precious little to the imagination and rubbing his eyes. “Is there any co—” Kyle’s eyes met Tyler’s and his hands instantly dropped to cover himself before hurrying back out of the kitchen. “Holy sh – Dad!? Why didn’t you tell me someone else was here?!”
Tyler was too stunned to react with how fast it all happened. “Since when has it mattered,” David asked, raising his voice so he could be heard as his son rushed back upstairs. “You never seemed to care what you were wearing around anyone else before!” David laughed quietly to himself as if he’d just enjoyed pulling a prank on his own son.
Tyler sat there, slowly processing the unexpected change. “Wait. How’d he get here so fast?”
David, still grinning, explained. “The boys brought him home yesterday. Right after his press conference. They just packed up his stuff and all but kidnapped him.”
Tyler had a feeling like his friendship with Jacob had somehow ended and something newer and not as close was going to be taking its place. With Kyle back, it was like a sign of a definitive end to a special relationship he felt he had shared with Jacob. Now, all of those moments were going to be usurped by Kyle. As disappointed as he felt, he knew there was nothing he could do about it, so he pushed it all aside for now. “What did you mean about him not caring what he used to wear?”
David rolled his eyes. “When he was a teenager, he was always wearing his speedo around the house most days he used to practice in. The same one for about two or three years. Before his last growth spurt. Was doing that until about sixteen, when I think he finally had to admit it was old and wasn’t able to hold up well anymore.”
Tyler raised his coffee cup to his lips. “A little snug?”
David muttered quietly, “tight enough you could his circumcision scar.”
Tyler nearly spit out his coffee. He gasped and sputtered to keep from inhaling the hot liquid before he started laughing. “Oh my God. Way too much information.”
David snickered as he heard Tyler fight for breath. “My son the exhibitionist. Remember that if he ever tries to act all important.”
“I’ll try,” he replied as he got his laughter under control.
A minute later, Tyler could hear footsteps coming down the stairs again and Kyle re-entered the room, wearing a pair of shorts over his briefs and a black tank top that looked too big for him. His face was still a little red from the embarrassment of a few moments ago when he moved to the coffee maker. “Good morning,” he said with a little edge to it as he looked up at his father.
David smiled pleasantly at him. “Good morning, Baby Boy,” he replied.
Kyle squinted his eyes slightly and smirked. “Feeling good about yourself right now, huh?”
“Better than ever,” David said as he leaned in and kissed his son’s forehead. “How are you feeling?”
Kyle seemed to ponder the question before replying. “Better. Weird. Definitely happier.”
David just nodded his understanding. “Go sit and I’ll get your breakfast.”
Kyle got his coffee and sat down at the table, not before giving his son a peck on the top of his head. “Hey. Did you sleep good last night?”
Matt nodded and smiled happily. “Yeah.”
“Good.” He turned his attention to the young man on the other side of the table. “Hello, Tyler. Sorry if I startled you earlier.”
Tyler shrugged, looking back down at this plate. “No big deal. I’ve seen worse. So, are you visiting or moving back?”
Kyle smirked slightly. “This is home now.” He glanced over at Matt and the smirk on his lips blossomed into a smile. “Well, almost.”
He grimaced. “Bedroom is too small for us both.”
“And too close to mine,” David muttered from the stove.
Kyle rolled his eyes. “Jacob is planning on building an addition to the house. As soon as it warms up enough, that is.”
Tyler was impressed. “Probably in a month or so. What are you going to do?”
“Be a dad for right now,” he replied with a shrug. “I don’t think I’m ready for anything else just yet until I get married.”
“So, kind of like just an extended vacation in a way,” Tyler suggested.
“I guess so. I might still get a call from the DA’s office once or twice.” Before his father could turn around to raise an objection, Kyle put his hand up. “Just to consult. Nothing more.”
David grunted as he put a plate piled with eggs, sausage and bacon in front of him. “Eat.”
Kyle grinned at Tyler and began to eat. His bright eyes and calm if somewhat playful demeanor disarmed Tyler. He was prepared to dislike him. Wanted to dislike him. In his eyes, Kyle was a cold-hearted, self-absorbed fool who threw away two people who loved him. Yet, here he was, sitting across from him looking and acting completely relaxed with an easy smile and a cute little son next to him. Tyler couldn’t find any faults that would call him into question.
David finished making breakfast just as Jacob came down and joined them. When Jacob sat next to Kyle, Tyler could see an almost spiritual look of love and peace in their eyes as Jacob leaned over to kiss Kyle’s neck before starting to eat. It gave Tyler a sharp sense of envy. As he chewed on his bacon, he wondered why Alex never looked at him like that, or why he was never inclined to feel that strongly for him in return.
He cleared his head of those thoughts. The last thing he wanted was to be distracted as he sat around a kitchen table eating breakfast with Jacob and his family. He frowned into his coffee. Family. Another thing he didn’t want to think about. “So, what’s on the agenda for today,” he asked Jacob.
If Jacob’s smile used to look good a year ago, it was nearly blinding to Tyler now. He was happy for his friend. But he wished he’d tone it down a little. “Actually, I’m gonna finish up the plans for the new rooms to the house today. After that, I’m gonna run you through some of the stuff I first learned. Should be a full day.”
Tyler nodded, feeling encouraged that he’d get a full eight-hour day of work. He had been feeling anxious about it, but this was preferable to the slow torture of being outed to the entire town.
“So, Tyler,” Kyle spoke up. “Troy tells me you left because someone at your job saw you with your boyfriend?”
He could feel his face heat up as all eyes turned towards him. “More or less. There’s been some whispers behind my back and I just… don’t feel real safe there right now.”
Kyle cocked an eyebrow. “I see. You know, though, you don’t have to put up with that, right? I mean, all you had to do was talk to Sam about it.”
“Or talk to me,” David added. “I’d call Sam right now and get your job back if you wanted me too. It’s not that we don’t appreciate you taking some of the load off Jacob here. But you shouldn’t let bullies drive you out of your job if you enjoyed it.”
Tyler wasn’t sure how to respond. David had been so kind and compassionate with him since his father passed. Despite the picture Alex always tried to paint him about how guys like Drake, Andy and Jacob didn’t really care about him and that he shouldn’t trust them, David seemed the total opposite. Kyle had known him for less than an hour and already seemed interested in his situation. Or maybe Kyle was just faking interest in front of Jacob? “I’m fine where I am right now.”
Kyle shrugged, seemingly satisfied. “Alright. I was just curious. What’s the story about the boyfriend? Alex?” Kyle’s eyes stayed on Tyler, watching how he reacted.
He shifted his eyes to his nearly empty plate, trying to scoop up the last of the eggs to avoid having to look at Kyle. “He’s fine. We live together, just the two of us.”
Kyle’s eyes went to Tyler’s fidgeting hands on the table for a second before he sat back in his chair. “Sounds like you’ve got a lot to deal with,” he commented.
Jacob glanced over at Kyle, wondering why he was giving Tyler the third degree. “Kyle… he’s fine. Just a little shy is all.”
Kyle looked over at his love and chuckled. “Yeah? Where’ve I heard that before?”
Jacob’s cheeks flushed a little. “Come on, Tyler. Let’s get to work.”
Tyler got up from the table, relieved to be able to get out of the house for once. They each took another cup of coffee and David reminded them to come get more to drink if they ever needed anything before they left, walking across the driveway to the workshop.
Kyle got up from his seat and went over to the window with his coffee and silently watched his fiancé and his employee walk away from the house.
“Don’t tell me you’re jealous,” David said to him from his seat at the table.
Kyle smirked and shook his head. “Not at all. He’s a nice guy. I just wanna get to know him better.” What he didn’t say was he was wondering what secret Tyler was hiding from everyone.
Andy was sitting on the sofa in his home, staring at his phone. He’d heard from Jacob and Troy that Tyler had suddenly up and quit and he wanted to know why. He could understand if Tyler had found a better paying job or something that he had always wanted to do. But his sudden jump into being Jacob’s assistant sounded suspicious. He had texted Tyler a couple times over the last few months but never got a response.
Brian walked into the room behind him, rubbing a towel through his wet hair. “What are you doing sitting here alone?” For the last few weeks, Andy had been spacing out or sometimes get agitated with no real reason. He never got violent or yelled, but Brian could hear a strain in his voice or how Andy’s eyes would seem to look at something he couldn’t see. They had worked through it as best as possible but in the last day, Andy seemed to be closing in on himself.
“He hasn’t responded in months,” Andy said as he continued to stare at his phone.
“Did it ever occur to you that maybe he and his boyfriend are… you know… busy?” It took him forever to get Andy to admit that Tyler was back with his boyfriend. And while Andy had met him, Brian didn’t have much detail to work with.
“He’s not like that,” Andy insisted. He started tapping out another message and sent it off, waiting.
Brian carefully walked around the sofa and sat down next to him. “Tell me what you’re thinking,” he said as he put his hand in Andy’s.
Andy closed his eyes and sighed. He knew he had been feeling more heated lately and he couldn’t help it. The more he went to the “therapy sessions,” the more he would end up talking about and then reliving the things that had happened to him. A month ago, he went to the VA clinic in Butler and they gave him some prescription meds to help him with his PTSD, but he didn’t think they were working. While he didn’t admit it to Brian, he had been avoiding touching him because he feared hurting him without meaning too. He could still hold Blake and Tanner and feel okay, but even that was a fleeting experience for him. “I just think something’s wrong.”
Brian shrugged. “So, go ask him.”
He shook his head. “I don’t think that’s a good idea.” He hadn’t left the house often for the last month or so because he didn’t feel comfortable. He would force himself to go to therapy, but his fingers would be white from gripping the steering wheel by the time he would pull into the parking lot there and in the driveway home. He was thankful that Brian didn’t mind taking Tanner to school. But if he took another job, Andy was going to have to consider having David come take Blake every day.
Brian was careful to not let his face show his dismay for his partner. He reached his hand over and tentatively ran his fingers through Andy’s hair. It had gotten longer since they first got back together. He mentally ticked off the months and came to eight. Almost nine. How could things go from bad, to great, and back to horrible in such a short span of time? “Have you heard from Jacob about when they plan to start building onto the house?”
“Next week,” he muttered while his eyes remained focused on his phone. He wanted to cry and scream and punch and pull whatever was keeping Tyler from responding. Every cell in his body was screaming inside him that the world was wrong. There was a disjointed feeling inside him that was growing. Like his life was being separated into little pieces and he was powerless to do anything about it. His emotions and his energy were fluctuating with no guess as to what was going to happen inside him next. “I think…” he didn’t want to say it, but he knew he had too. “…I think you should call David.”
A few touches on his phone and Brian sat there, keeping on a brave face as he waited. He knew he never had to wait long. “Hey, it’s me. He’s asking for you… Don’t tell the others. He’s real sensitive right now. Thanks.” He put the phone away and leaned a little more against Andy. “He’s on his way.”
Andy nodded. He suddenly couldn’t feel anything inside him. There wasn’t even a sense of fear within that he should at the very least be afraid of what’s going on. “Make sure...”
Brian nodded and kissed his hair. “It’s okay. I’ll take care of them.”
The two of them sat there in silence while Blake was downstairs blissfully unaware of his dad’s plight right above him. Five minutes later, there was a knock on the door before David let himself in. He saw the two of them and walked over. “I’m here.” He said quietly as he knelt in front of Andy. “Andrew, talk to me. Tell me what’s going on.” He saw the blank look on his face and the green eyes looked as if they belonged to a dead man.
“I can’t feel anything. I’m angry but I can’t feel it. It’s inside, and I can’t get it out.”
David nodded. “How long have you been on these meds the docs gave you?”
Andy shook his head. “I don’t remember.”
“About four weeks ago, I think,” Brian said quietly.
“When did he last take one?”
Brian looked at Andy and ran his hand over his head again. “This morning, I think. Maybe six hours ago?”
David frowned. “Tanner needs to be picked up in an hour or so from school. You’ll need to do that. I think I need to take him to the hospital.”
“No,” Andy whined that came out in a voice just barely above a whisper.
David put his hand on the boy’s face and softly said, “I’m sorry, son. I know you don’t want to, but I think it’s the pills that are doing this to you. We need to see if they can balance you out or we just have to wait for them to wear off. Either way, we have to see a doctor to make sure.”
Andy didn’t want to move. There was a fear inside him that said he’d be vulnerable if he stepped out the door. His eyes focused on David and he relied on his instinct to trust that he would be there. “Okay.”
David smiled. “There’s my brave boy.” He took Andy’s hand and helped him get on his feet before putting a supportive arm around him. He spared a glance at Brian as he said, “go spend some time with Blake. Tell him grandpa took his dad out and they’ll be back.” He started to guide Andy towards the door and stopped, suddenly remembering. “Hell. Bri, grab his pills so I can take them with us.”
Brian quickly ran up to the bedroom and came back seconds later with the bottle in hand. “Tell them he’s been taking two a day like it says on the bottle.”
David nodded and tucked the bottle in a pocket as he led Andy out to his SUV. He hoped Kyle wouldn’t text him while he was helping Andy. It’s been months since his last episode. Kyle hadn’t come home yet and David had been hopeful that when Andy had gone out of his way to want to help move Kyle back that it meant he was mending. But this was the reality they were facing. They were never sure what was going to affect him anymore and his mood swings could be random. He was sure it had something to do with the medication he was on, but he needed to get a doctor to confirm it.
When he got to the hospital, David realized he was going to run into an obstacle as far as keeping things quiet. Once he parked, he helped Andy out and stayed next to him as they walked up to the entrance to the emergency room. As the doors opened for them, David gave Andy a reassuring pat on the shoulder and said softly to him, “Go ahead and sit down. I’ll take care of this.” Andy turned and quietly went to sit in the nearly empty waiting area of the emergency room as David walked up to the counter.
He wasn’t at all surprised when he saw Liz standing there. Her eyes followed Andy as he sat down on a chair with his head down before she turned her attention to David. Her face was a mask of uncertain concern. “What happened?”
He leaned toward her and replied quietly, “I need you to not mention this to your husband. We think he’s having a bad side effect of some medication he’s been taking, and we need to see a doctor. He’s been quiet, but I’m afraid he could be on the verge of a breakdown.”
She frowned at the idea of keeping secrets, but she knew what her job was. “If he’s having some kind of reaction, he’s going to have to be hospitalized. It could take days to figure out what’s wrong and work it out of his system.”
David nodded in understanding. “What’s the first step?”
Liz looked over her shoulder at one of the other nurses. “Katie? We need to get a blood sample and alert upstairs about a possible side effect to some medication.” She turned to David. “What was he prescribed?” He pulled the bottle out and handed it to her. She studied the label and shook her head. “Sue, call the VA contact. We need their records for Andrew Stewart, USMC.” She scribbled down a few notes from the bottle before giving it back to David. “Troy is going to kill me when he finds out.”
David smirked a little. “If he starts to get on you about this, tell him to call me.”
“You better believe I will,” she replied. “I’ll get him a room in a few minutes. Keep your eye on him.”
David turned and let Liz do her work as he stepped over to join Andy. He put his arm around Andy’s shoulders and felt him lean against him. “Everything is going to be okay, alright?” Privately, he started to wonder if maybe he should contact Nate and Lisa. Lisa definitely, in his mind, should be the first to be told that her son was in trouble. But it wasn’t a phone call he wanted to make. He decided that Brian should make those calls. They may not be officially married, but Brian was the one doing most of the heavy lifting. David was only being called in when there were private concerns. He could keep Liz quiet and not tell Troy and Kyle. Brian maybe not so much.
They sat there for a few minutes before an attendant escorted them into an examination room. As they waited in there, David tried to engage Andy in conversation. When he couldn’t get more than two words out of him at a time, his heart broke for him. David wasn’t one to typically give in to despair, but he wasn’t sure he was going to be able to stand the thought of losing one of his boys. Pete had been his best friend most of his life. After he died, David seemed to transfer most of his affection for his friend to Pete’s sons. Andy more so because he had been around him for so long. He realized he couldn’t ask Brian to make those calls to Andy’s family. He would have to do it himself. For now, he held Andy’s hand and let him know he wasn’t alone.
The door opened and one of the women he saw at the main desk when they first arrived stepped inside. “Mr. Stewart. I’m Mindy. I’m here to get a blood sample from you.” She smiled politely as she set up the needle and syringe before turning her attention to him, noting he hadn’t moved. “Sir, can I ask you to hold out your right arm, please?”
Andy seemed to brace himself as he held out his arm and made a fist. David rubbed his shoulder and whispered in his ear. “Just stay focused on me, Andy. It’ll only take a few seconds.”
Mindy carefully put her hands on his forearm and turned it to find a vein near the surface. “There we go.” David was thankful for her careful attitude as she went about her work. Within seconds she had the needle in his arm and extracted the blood she needed before bandaging the spot. “We’ll be taking this upstairs for testing. If you have any questions, the doctor should be here soon to see you.”
David sighed in relief when she left, thankful there was no incident. “How are you feeling, Andy?”
Andy’s brow furrowed and then shook his head. “I don’t know. I can’t sleep. I’m tired but I can’t sleep.”
“How long has it been since you slept?”
Andy shrugged. “Days. Two. Maybe three. I can’t focus. But I can’t sleep.”
David nodded slowly. He was starting to understand. “Has this happened a lot?”
Andy’s lips trembled for a moment. “Few times.”
“And you didn’t say anything,” he replied with a frown.
“I’m supposed to be the one to take care of things.”
“The only thing we need to take care of right now is you,” David said. “We love you and we need to work together to get you better. But you need to say something when you have problems like this.”
“I’m never going to get better, am I?”
The last was said in such a mournful, resigned voice it cut David so deep he felt tears spring to his eyes before he pulled Andy into a tight hug. “Now, you listen to me, Andrew Patrick. You will get better. It’ll take time and it’ll take courage, but you will get there. I swear to you. Me, your brothers, Brian… we are not ever going to give up on you.”
Andy felt the tears run down his eyes as he felt David’s arms around him. He tried to focus on his breathing and closed his eyes, letting himself be held. As he breathed, a memory came to him from nowhere. The droning sound of cicadas in the humid summer night air. The last traces of light from the fading sun painting the sky in hues of red and orange, slowly turning black as stars appeared overhead. The sound of semitrucks on a nearby highway rolling by as he stood at the top of an embankment with acres of flat greenery laying before him. Arms around his waist and a chin resting on his shoulder as he beheld fireflies taking flight, like tiny blinking stars rising up from the earth as if to join the other stars overhead.
David felt Andy’s body relax and slowly coaxed him into laying down on the bed in the room. “Andy, I know you don’t want to get other people involved but… I have to call your mother and tell her what’s going on.”
Andy groaned softly. “I don’t… I don’t want anyone to start panicking.”
“I’ll talk to her. Trust me. It’s better she knows now, than if things take a turn for the worst. And for all we know that turn is coming up.” He hoped it wouldn’t upset him too much, but he knew he had to do it regardless. He should have his family involved. If this were Kyle, he’d want to know no matter how far away he was.
Andy frowned and was silent for a long moment before he finally nodded his assent. “It’ll be okay. I promise.”
“She’s gonna call Nate the second she’s off the phone with you,” he mumbled as his eyes closed.
David smirked. “That’s not a bad thing,” he replied.
They waited for nearly an hour, sitting there quietly. David wanted him to rest as much as possible while there was a bed available for him to lay down on. He’d gotten a text from Kyle asking him when he was going to be home. He texted his son that he was fine and that he would be home shortly.
This wasn’t going to work the way Andy wanted, David realized. One way or another something was going to be said and then there would be some kind of fallout. He felt Andy was fooling himself if he thought Kyle and the others wouldn’t take his needs into consideration when they offered to help him. Sooner than he wanted, Andy was going to have to face his friends.
Dr. Ford entered the room with a file in his hand and an exasperated look on his face. His eyes went from David to Andy and then back. “Dave.”
The man’s eyes went to Andy as he came over to him. “Andrew. How many of those pills were you taking?”
Andy’s eyes closed again. “One so far this morning.”
“And how many did you take yesterday?” The doctor’s gravelly voice deepened and the wrinkles on his face seemed to magnify his frown.
“I don’t remember,” he answered.
David rose to his feet coming up behind the doctor. Before he could say anything, Dr. Ford asked with a hint of sarcasm, “do I get to guess?” When he didn’t get an answer, he opened the file in his hand and said, “from what we found in your blood test, I’d guess four or maybe five yesterday.”
“Andrew,” David said with a sigh.
“They weren’t working,” Andy said as he opened his eyes. “I wasn’t feeling any better. I couldn’t sleep and I didn’t want to eat. All I could do was sit there and stare at the walls.”
“Then you call the doctor who prescribed you the drug and tell them, ‘hey, this isn’t helping me,’ instead of deciding on your own to up your dosage,” Dr. Ford replied in a caustic tone. “You’re lucky you didn’t come in here on a stretcher.”
“So, what do I do then,” Andy asked.
“Well, for one, you stop taking those damn pills,” Ford said. “Right now, we have to get your hormonal imbalance under control. We could wait and see if they’ll go back to normal on their own…”
“Or,” David asked.
“Or, I can give him a shot. It’ll likely knock him out for a while, but after twenty-four hours, he should be fine again.”
David looked to Andy who opened his eyes and slowly sat up. “Gimme the shot.”
“Well, hold on,” Ford said. “If you’re gonna get the shot, we have to admit you and get you upstairs.”
Andy managed to work up a frown. “No. Gimme the shot and I’ll go home and sleep it off.”
“Not gonna happen.” The doctor said with a stony gaze. “This is strong shit, and you have to be monitored the entire time.”
“I want to go home.”
“What happens if he doesn’t take the shot,” David asked.
Dr. Ford frown deepened. “He’ll feel like shit for three or four days. He would need to be forced to eat and I doubt he’d be making any social calls. His mood swings could get erratic. Maybe even life threatening if he has a powerful panic attack and it causes his heart to go into arrest.”
David moved closer to Andy, looking at him with concern. “Is that what you want? We’re pretty much past the point of no return on this. It’s either a couple days of agony you may not recover from, or a day here. Either way, son, they all have to be told.”
Andy’s head dropped, his blonde hair falling forward to obscure his face. David sighed, feeling pity for him but at the same time, very aware of the fact that Andy brought this on himself. The two older men stood there, watching him and waiting for his decision. Andy sighed and lifted his head and mumbled, “I’ll go ahead and stay here.”
“Good choice,” The doctor said as he headed towards the door. “I’ll have a nurse and a wheelchair on its way in a moment.” The doctor left them there to wait.
“Well,” David said with a sigh, “I guess I better tell Kyle first.” When he saw Andy’s eyes look up he added, “I’ll make sure they know to not hound you.”
Andy sighed. “I’m sorry for all this.”
“Andy…” He wasn’t sure how to broach this subject. “You took the pills because you wanted to get better, right?”
“Yes,” Andy replied, looking up at him.
David nodded. “Okay then. Think of it as something you can learn from.”
A nurse entered the room with a wheelchair, ready to take Andy upstairs. David walked with him to keep him company all the way to the hospital room he was assigned to. He gently but firmly pushed the nurse aside as he helped Andy get undressed, put a hospital gown on and into the bed.
The nurse, whose name tag identified him as ‘Mark S.’ started setting up the equipment in the room to monitor Andy’s heart rate before prepping a bag of fluids. “Before we start sticking holes in you, did you wanna use the bathroom?”
Andy smirked and shook his head. “I’m good.”
“Alright then.” The nurse got to work and within a few minutes was gone, leaving David to sit next to Andy’s bed and wait patiently.
The two of them talked quietly while they waited the few minutes before a doctor and two nurses came into the room. The doctor described what was going to happen and how everything was going to be monitored in case anything went wrong. “It will kind of be like just sedating you. You’ll fall asleep and then you’ll wake up and be out the door an hour or so later. We say it should take twenty-four hours, but that just depends on the patient’s size, weight and general health. If everything goes well, you could be awake in eighteen hours.”
David turned and looked at Andy. “I’ll be here until you fall asleep. And I’ll be back hopefully before you wake up.”
Andy nodded as his eyes looked over at the doctor. “Okay. I’m ready.”
The doctor stepped over and took a needle out of his pocket. He removed the cap and pushed the needle into the line between the bag of saline and Andy’s hand. After a few seconds passed, the needle was removed, and his attention went to the monitors to watch for any signs of change.
David stood up and placed his hand on Andy’s forehead as he leaned down to whisper in his ear. “Just relax. Everything is going to be okay. Just think of something to relax you and let you fall asleep.” He watched the young man’s face as his eyes slowly started to close.
Andy felt himself drift away as if he was leaving his body. He felt so broken inside but warm. He could hear David’s voice, but couldn’t respond. The fatigue in him was just too much it made the effort to speak impossible. As his eyes closed, as he felt himself drift away, he could hear the languid noise of insects on a summer breeze, trucks going down the highway. He felt arms around his waist. The corners of his mouth lifted in a small smile and he was at peace.
By the time David was back home, Kyle and Jacob were waiting in the kitchen for him. He was tired from the effort of helping Andy, but he could already tell by the looks on their faces as he stepped into the kitchen that Liz had already told Troy who told Kyle and Jacob. Jacob had a look of concern and confusion in his eyes, while Kyle had a stoic, determined look.
“Where’s Matt,” David asked as he stepped inside, removing his jacket.
“He’s in bed,” Kyle replied. “It’s after nine o’clock. Why didn’t you tell us Andy was having trouble?”
“For that matter, why didn’t Brian tell us,” Jacob chimed in.
David sighed, went to the fridge to retrieve a can of soda and sat down at the table to drink it. “He didn’t want everyone to fuss over him,” David replied. “He’s not comfortable discussing his PTSD. Hell, he’s barely wanted to acknowledge it was even there this whole time.” David’s gaze went to Jacob. “There was a reason why I asked you to tell me if you saw him acting out of character. I’ve been trying to keep him from hurting himself.”
Kyle’s face paled a little and his face registered what his dad was implying. “Is that what happened?”
“No,” David said in reassurance. “He just did something stupid and now it bit him in the ass. He’s staying the night at the hospital and should be back to normal by tomorrow. I stayed up there as long as I was able to, but I had to come home and talk to you two about this and I need to call his mom and Nate in the morning.”
“So, what should we do,” Jacob asked.
David smirked a little, feeling that familiar swell of pride in his boys. “Don’t change. Be his friend. Love him unconditionally. I’m not entirely sure, but I’m almost certain there’s something going on inside him he hasn’t mentioned. Something he’s hiding, maybe even from himself. Don’t pressure him to talk when he doesn’t want too. Let him be the one to want to start the conversation if it goes into talking about what happened to him.”
Kyle looked over at Jacob and asked, “do you think we should hold off on building the new addition until he’s better?”
Jacob met his eyes, seeing the concern he had for Andy. “If he’s coming home tomorrow, it might best if we went ahead with it. We’ll have everything we need on Monday. Just need to put down the foundation and get started. Only thing we need to worry about is the weather.”
David finished his soda and stood. “You two can go ahead and talk this over if you want. I’m going to bed. I gotta get up early and make some phone calls before going back to the hospital.”
Kyle grimaced slightly. “You want me to come with you tomorrow?”
David sighed wearily. “I think it’s best if I go alone. I know you want to help. But right now, I think he would resent your help more than welcome it. Just trust me on this for awhile.”
Kyle nodded, somewhat reluctantly. “Goodnight, dad.”
Jacob sat there quietly until he heard David’s footsteps heading up the stairs before asking in a delicate voice, “how are you feeling?”
“Me? I’m fine.” Kyle stood up and went to the fridge to get a drink.
“You sure?” Jacob’s eyes followed him. When Kyle turned to face him, he gave his lover a knowing look.
Kyle sighed. “Yeah, why?”
“Nothing,” Jacob shrugged a shook his head. “For a second there, I could’ve sworn I saw your hand shake when you were talking to dad about Andy.”
“Okay. What is it you’re trying to say?”
“All I’m saying is that I’m asking you how you’re feeling about Andy?”
Kyle was silent for a moment before he answered. “I feel like some of this is my fault. I should’ve been here for him.”
Jacob nodded as if that was what he expected. “What else?”
“I just…” He shook his head. “I’m afraid for him. And I want to do something. I haven’t done anything really, since I moved back.”
Jacob smiled and got to his feet to close the distance between them. He put his arms around Kyle’s waist and leaned his head in close. “You’ve been home for three weeks now. Remember when we talked about maybe you going to see a therapist for your anxiety problems? Maybe it’s time we start going in that direction?”
“I’m a little scared, to tell you the truth.”
“What are you afraid of?”
Kyle frowned and said candidly, “that he’s going to tell me there’s nothing that can be done and I’m just going to have to live with it.”
“I understand,” Jacob said in a comforting voice. “I was scared at first to, when I started going to a therapist. But I had Dad and Troy encouraging me and helping me when I needed it. You’ll have them and me and Matt loving you and holding you up when you need us too.”
Kyle laid his head on Jacob’s shoulder. “I’m so glad I’m home.”
“So am I,” he replied with a grin. He held Kyle for a few more moments before he said in a slightly more mischievous tone, “how about we go out to my workshop and… make some notes about our wedding?”
“This late at night?”
Jacob snickered and kissed his neck tenderly, just below his ear. “Yeah. This late. Out there no one will be able to hear us.”
Kyle lifted his head and smiled. “That’s probably a good idea.”
With playful smiles and holding hands, the two of them quietly slipped out the backdoor to spend some real quality time together.
“No,” Tyler said nervously as he sat there looking at Alex who was seated on the other side of the couch.
“What’s your problem,” Alex asked in an angry voice. “I just wanna try it.”
“It’s not something I’m interested in, okay?” Tyler was curled up with his arms around his legs as if trying to defend himself from Alex. For the last month, this has been Alex’s obsession regarding their sex life. He’d forced Tyler to watch videos which disgusted him and scared him. Alex looked completely fascinated by it and would watch video’s over and over.
“So, you don’t know if you like it or not,” Alex said with less anger as a sly smirk appeared on his face. “Why so nervous? It’s not like it’s gonna kill you.”
Tyler wasn’t completely convinced of that. “Why are you so determined to do this?”
“Because I wanna spice up our sex life,” Alex said as he moved a little closer to him.
Tyler had the urge to back up more, but he didn’t have any space left. “I’m fine with how things are now.” That was only slightly true. He wasn’t enjoying sex with Alex anymore. He was just doing it to satisfy him. Better that than him going out looking for it somewhere else, he figured.
“I’m not,” Alex said in a voice that let him know he wasn’t up for debating it. “I want to try new things. I like the idea of a dom/sub relationship. I think it would be good for us.”
“That’s not the kind of relationship I want.” He could feel a sliver of fear creep into his voice. He wanted to run out of the room as fast as possible.
Alex smirked, looking at him with a pitiable gaze. “You might not want it, but it’s probably the best thing for you.”
“The hell does that mean?!”
Alex sighed in mock exasperation. “You really are dense sometimes. You got lucky for awhile being out on your own, but you really screwed it up later on. If I wasn’t here, you’d probably be out on the street right now. You’re young and have no idea what you’re doing. I’ve been trying to help you and be understanding but it’s time you start giving back a little.”
Tyler was flabbergasted. A part of him said that everything Alex said wasn’t true. At the same time, the reality was that he was barely hanging on and if Alex did leave, he’d be in no shape to handle the bills on his own. He felt trapped in a cage with no one to turn too. He tried to remember back to when they first met and the fun they had together. Those first tentative steps closer to each other and then the fight, the make up and everything else that led to this moment. He knew giving into this was going to be a bad idea. Of course, he could just walk away but he’d likely lose everything in the house he’d accumulated over their time together. Alex had subtly made comments about what all in the house he felt was his. But he had no where he could go. He could try and see if his mom would let him move back in with her and Stan, but that made it all feel like his life was one big failure. In that case, Alex would have been right all along. He wished Drake or Andy would reply to his texts.
“I’m going to need time to think about this, okay? Next week, I’m going to be busy with work. We have a big project starting and it’s going to take a few weeks or more to finish.” He prayed that would be enough to dissuade Alex, at least for now.
Alex stared at him for a moment. “I guess. We’ll talk about it later then.” He got up from the couch and headed towards the back of the house. “I’m gonna take a shower and then get ready for bed.”
“Okay.” Tyler sat there, still feeling insecure enough that he didn’t want to unwrap himself from the ball he’s squeezed himself into. He closed his eyes and tried to focus on the good aspects of all this.
After Alex finished with his shower and went to bed, Tyler still hadn’t come up with any.
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