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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 - 31. Chapter 31

Drake was sitting at a table in his favorite restaurant in town when he saw Tyler walk in. It was partly due to Tyler that it had become one of his favorites. It was the site of their first date. He smiled to himself as he noted the changes in his friend over the last two years. Where once he saw a handsome if somewhat timid, uncertain boy just starting to grow into his own, now he saw before him a man who walked with an air of quiet confidence and a look of someone who had come to be comfortable with his life. A confidence that he once lacked. He’d love to take credit for Tyler’s changes over the years, but he knew it wasn’t all him. Most of it was trial and error. The innocence of youth meeting the harsh glare of reality. While he would have wished for better where Tyler was concerned, he had to admit, he liked what he saw now.

When their eyes met, Tyler’s face broke into an easy smile as he crossed the room. “Hey, stranger,” he said as he took his seat. “Where’ve you been? Each time I text you you’re busy with something.”

Drake smiled and shrugged evasively. Even his voice sounded different. Older. Mature. “Just, getting my life in order. How’ve you been doing?”

“I’m doing just fine, thanks.” His eyes seem to brighten slightly as he added, “Sean and I are talking about maybe co-habitating, but I think we won’t really decide until next year. Right now, we’re really just getting closer and just enjoying things between us.”

“Taking your time, huh?” Drake felt his heart swell a little. Seeing Tyler so happy made his own life choices easier to make.

Tyler nodded with an easy comfortable smile on his lips and his eyes. “For now. But I gotta admit it’s such a weird feeling.”

“What is?”

“That I don’t feel like I have to bend over backwards to make him happy. That we can just sit and talk together or just lay there and cuddle on the couch and there’s no expectations of what’s going to happen next. That I can speak my mind even if he doesn’t always agree with me and we can just talk and not have it turn into a fight where only one of us can be right.”

Drake grinned. “Sounds like you’re in love.”

Tyler laughed a little nervously and nodded. “Yeah, I think you’re right. It’s a little scary to be honest. But… I just…” His emotions started to overwhelm him making him stop to compose himself. Even as he continued, there was a tear forming in one eye and his voice was heavier. “When he tells me he loves me, I don’t just hear it. I feel it. It’s like a thing he gave me that I carry around inside. I’ve told him all about my past and he’s told me so much of his too, but not all of it. And I understand that he’s leery about discussing his family. They have some issues and it causes a little friction between them. But, I’m not afraid with him. It’s like he filled this space inside me I never knew was empty. I don’t know how else to describe it.”

Drake nodded in understanding. “I remember the feeling very well.”

The waitress came to get their order and returned with their drinks before Tyler finally said to him, “enough about me and Sean, though. I wanna know what’s had you busy the last few weeks that I’ve barely seen you. It’s been, what, four weeks since I last saw you?”

Drake sat back in his seat and smiled. “Yeah. Since the wedding. I’ve been busy. And out of town a lot of that time.”

Tyler’s head tilted slightly as he watched him curiously. “What happened to your job at the bar? Sean and I went in there the other night and you weren’t there.”

“I quit.” He waved his hand to forestall any protesting. “It’s okay. I just needed the time to myself. I’ve been doing so much traveling lately; I’ve barely been at my other job. I’m almost out of vacation time there.”

Tyler frowned in concern and confusion. “Where’ve you been going?”

Drake grinned and looked down at his drink as he blushed for a moment. “I’ve been going to spend time with my boyfriend.”

Tyler sat back in his chair with a surprised grin. “When did this happen?”

Drake stifled a laugh. “Not long after the wedding. Well, we met there, I guess you could say. And he ended up staying at my place that night. And the next night before he went home. Then, we started calling each other and texting… The next weekend I took an early flight to go see him and we’ve been kind of doing that since.”

Tyler was speechless as he heard Drake’s casual tone. “Well… I mean… So, what’s his name? What’s he like?”

Drake chuckled at the notion that the tables had turned between them. “He’s a very sweet guy. Kind of young. Well, not really. Just younger than I usually date. He’s a lawyer and had a bad break up with his ex a couple months ago. I guess he caught the guy cheating on him. Anyway, we found out that we had a lot of common interests and I really like the area he lives in…” He let his words trail off as he reached for his beer and gave Tyler a meaningful look.

Tyler felt an unexpected sense of loss creep into his heart as he understood what Drake was saying. “You… you’re going to move to be with him?”

Drake nodded as he smiled back at him with only a hint of sadness in his eyes. “At the end of September, when my lease is up on my house.”

“You’re sure about this?” A feeling of guilt filled his gut, wishing they’d spent more time together. His hatred for Alex took on a whole new level, thinking of all those months he’d kept him away from Drake and his other friends.

“I already put in my resignation at the insurance agent.” He saw Tyler’s eyes start to tear up and he reached over to take his hand. “Hey, don’t worry. I know what I’m doing. I guess I should’ve told you first that we had a long talk together and we really fell in love with each other.”

Tyler took a few seconds to compose himself before he managed a smile and nodded. “I know. It’s just… you’ve been such a good friend and I love you and I’m really happy for you. I just… I dunno. I feel like I just lost a friend.”

“You didn’t,” Drake replied with quiet assurance. “It doesn’t matter how far away we are, I will always be your friend, no matter what.”

Tyler’s smile widened a little but that feeling of loss was still stuck in his chest. “Okay.”

When their food arrived, Drake moved the conversation to baseball to get Tyler’s mind off the topic of his impending departure. The change helped take the gloom from the table and got them debating the Pirates’ chances in the post season along with the Cardinals until segueing into their mutual dislike of the Yankees. They laughed as they talked about their jobs and stories from their pasts and relived some of the memories they made together out in the orchard, at the club or just hanging out at the bar having fun. Towards the end of dinner, Tyler found a small measure of acceptance in the changes in their friendship. While the physical closeness would diminish, the feelings they shared of mutual love and that bond that they couldn’t quite put into words would never really fade away.

After they finished eating, they walked out of the restaurant together with a companionable air about them. As he reached his truck, Tyler looked to Drake and asked, “so, when do I get to meet this guy of yours?”

Drake smiled brightly. “With any luck in a few weeks. I’ve been pestering him to come here for a few days. I want to take him to the orchard during picking season and cook him a real meal. He’s an awesome guy but he can’t cook for shit.”

Tyler grinned. “Well, that’ll be a great time then. Sean and I will definitely be there. David ‘invited’ us to help out during the weeks the orchard is going to be open.”

Drake laughed at that, remembering only two years ago when he seemed less than thrilled about the idea of going. “Great. I’ll text you when I know more. Maybe we should all get together for dinner one night awhile he’s here? Then you can get to know him yourself and see he’s as awesome as I told you.”

“So, what’s his name anyway,” Tyler asked.

“Jason,” Drake answered with a bright smile.

Tyler got a thoughtful look, trying to remember. “Nope. Don’t think I met him.”

“You probably don’t remember anything but Sean from that whole day.”

“No comment.” Tyler grinned before embracing him. “Two months, huh?”

“Yeah. Plenty of time,” Drake said gently. “And even after that, I’m never more than a phone call away.”

“I know.” It wasn’t the last time they’d be together Tyler knew. But he was still reluctant to let go of him.

Drake gave him a gentle peck on his cheek before saying, “go home. Have Sean come over and watch baseball with you. I’ll see you later.”

“See you.” He released his friend and watched him walk off towards his car before he got in his truck and headed home.




Andy’s eyes opened to find a dark and silent room around him. There was no alarm set and even if there had been, he could tell by the darkness outside that something was off inside him. An unknowable disquiet in his soul that made him feel like he was in another world where nothing made sense. There was no pain attached to it. Just a feeling that the world was wrong.

He carefully raised his head to check his surroundings in the dim light from the window. Brian was peacefully asleep on the other side of the bed. Across the room, the red glow of the clock read 3:12 a.m. He would have liked to close his eyes and go back to sleep but his mind had already been triggered and he knew going back to sleep would take a long time. Without waking Brian up, he carefully rolled out of bed and kept the lights off while searching for something to put on. The whisper of the air conditioner meant that it was still hot outside even in the dead of night, so he didn’t bother with a shirt. He managed to find a pair of worn shorts that probably should be put in the laundry but would be fine until the sun came up in a few hours.

After silently opening the door and creeping out, Andy carefully made his way down to the kitchen to grab a bottle of water before heading down to the back door. One of the joys of summer for him was how peaceful it felt being outside late at night with the warm air, the sounds of the insects and an open sky above him with the moon barely a sliver as it drifted among the stars. He opened his bottle and took a drink as he surveyed the sky, wondering what it was that woke him up. The most likely answer was that it was just a glitch in his brain that told him it was morning now instead of three hours from now. That self-diagnosis made him chuckle to himself. The last thing he needed was another sign that he was crazy.

As he lay there in the grass, he stared up at the nighttime sky and tried to make his mind go blank. To just stop thinking and not worry about what’s happened. He decided to focus instead on the day ahead. After work, he promised Brian that they would start to seriously plan their wedding instead of it “just being a concept,” as Brian had stated to him the other day. Their plan was to have Brian drop the boys off to spend the night with Matt since he, David and Stephanie had just returned from their trip to California, and he and Brian would start talking about when and where they would have their wedding and reception.

Andy got a smile on his face remembering how well he had planned out his proposal and guarded the ring carefully to keep Brian from knowing what was going on. While Brian might not realize it, Andy had seen the little smile and twinkle in Brian’s eyes whenever he stopped to look at the ring that was sitting on his finger. It meant a lot to both of them. For Andy, it was a sign of hope that the memories inside of him would soon fade the longer he was with his best friend.

Once he finished his water, he got up and headed back inside, brushing some of the stray strands of grass off his back. It was still too early, and he wasn’t tired, but he didn’t want to wake everyone else up just because he was. God knows waking the boys up this early would make it a horrible day for Brian and the last thing he needed was cranky kids and a cranky Brian.

He grabbed his phone that he’d left next to the sofa and laid down, intending to look over some websites and maybe play a game. When he opened it, he did a quick check on the home screen for the weather outlook for the day. As he studied the screen, a part of his mind started to lock onto a portion of the screen even while he desperately tried to ignore it. It was August fifth. There was an urge to just pretend it wasn’t, or that he had the days mixed up. But even after opening an app, the date kept ringing in his head over and over.

Andy could recall how hard some of those days were back then. Day in and day out, struggling just to understand what their objectives were and never quite knowing if they’d been successful or not. August fifth… Andy sat up, staring at his phone as a sudden realization came to him. It had been ten years. He opened his web browser and thought about what he was about to do. It was something he’d only seen twice and both times were shortly after it had happened. He honestly didn’t want to look at it again, but a part of him wanted to know if he was right. Needed to know if he was right. And maybe there was a small part of him that wanted to see that face again. See that smile and remember when things hadn’t seemed so complicated.

In the search bar he typed in the words, “Brandon Tucker USMC obituary.” He held his breath as he waited for it to load, hoping it wasn’t true. Less than two seconds and a lifetime later, he got his answer in the form of a link with the name that had haunted him for so long. He tapped on it and a page opened that made him bite his lower lip as he read the words on the page.

Brandon Jackson Tucker, born April 19th1986, died on August 5th, 2008 in Kandahar province Afghanistan from enemy gunfire fighting against a band of Taliban resistance. Born in Scott City Missouri…

He closed the screen, unable and unwilling to read the rest. It had been ten years ago today that he’d lost a part of himself. The guilt he’d hid from the world latched onto him like a beast, gnawing at him from the inside. He could remember every firefight he was in after that, and how each time he silently prayed a bullet would find him and take him away from it all. Even after getting married and having his first child, each time he was in a ditch, firing on the enemy, he wished they would find him and give him what he couldn’t do himself. The loss was still there, even if he had found new reasons to live. His children. His friends. Brian. But no matter how much he tried the memory of that day still haunts him.

As he lay back down on the couch, Andy knew this couldn’t keep going. Ten years of this and it was tearing him apart inside. Staring up at the ceiling, he started to wonder what it was he could do to bring it all to an end. In his therapy meetings everyone was encouraged to open up and talk. The urge to talk about Brandon had started to grow but he knew if he did, he would tell them the same lie that he told the others and the other vets would probably know it was a lie. He started thinking about saying it out loud. What would happen if he did? Who would he say it too? Not Brian. Not yet, at least. Not the others. David perhaps? He would like to, but he didn’t want to give David yet another reason to hover over him. If his dad was still alive, he would have told him the moment he got home. His dad already knew what to say to him, even if it was just to hug him and tell him he loved him.

Suddenly, a thought occurred to him. That pull he had felt over the last few months. The urge to just go and get away, thinking he could get rid of the demons in his head if he could just outrun them fast enough. It’s been an annoying tug that he’s ignored for so long. But maybe the urge wasn’t that he was wanting to run from something. Maybe it was and urge to run towards something. Something he missed. Something that would end this once and for all.

But what about Brian? If he did this, he could lose what he wants most. That’s what’s stopped him before. Fear of losing his children. His friends. The fear of losing Brian. He knew there was no way he could live without him. Not after so long apart when things seemed hopeless between them. This wasn’t as easy as he expected. He knew he needed to do this. He had to get rid of that demon for good. Not a demon. A ghost. One that he’s denied for too long. The truth needed to come out. And he knew who he had to tell. There was no other right way to do it.

He could end up losing Brian. But doing nothing would just ensure that their life together would stay how it is now. Strained at times by the secrets he’s kept locked away acting like a buffer, keeping them from truly being together. The more he thought on it, the more Andy was convinced he had to do this. He crept back upstairs and entered their bedroom. As carefully as he could, he removed his duffle bag from the smaller closet and put it on the floor before going through the drawers and taking out a couple sets of clothes he would need. He made sure he had it all, shirts, socks, underwear, shorts.

He couldn’t make a mistake and end up having to come back. And he couldn’t tell anyone where he was going. If he did, they would probably lock him up to keep him here and try to talk some sense into him. What Brian and his friends didn’t know and couldn’t know is that all their trying to get him to open up just makes him want to crawl further into a closet, shut the door and hide from the world. Therapy only barely works because he forces himself. If he really wants to get better and be the person Brian deserves, he had to do this.

As silently as possible, he shouldered his bag and went down to the garage and gently slung the bag into the back of his truck and pulled an old tarp over it. This was an all or nothing gamble, and he knew it. But he also knew that if he could really go through with it, then he might finally find some peace of mind no matter what the outcome was or how bad the fallout of his actions would be. He crept back upstairs and gently crawled back into bed. As he lay there, he felt more relaxed now, knowing what he was going to do would be hard, but the rewards were too good for him to ignore. He wanted his old life back. Or as much of it as he could grab onto.




Throughout the first couple hours of the day Tyler couldn’t shake off the feeling that something didn’t feel right. At first he blamed it on the fact that it was the first time he and Sean were on the same work crew since they started dating and he was just feeling concerned some of the other guys on the site would pick up on what was going on between them. To be fair, neither one of them were going out of their way to hide much of their new affection towards each other. While they weren’t making out right in front of everyone, there was the occasional touch, a lingering gaze or the warm smile that was a sure sign of more than just friendship between them. But any time he looked around, all he saw were the guys he’s worked with for nearly three summers and most of them had come to like and respect him. Maybe enough so that they didn’t mind seeing what he and Sean were doing.

After spending time pondering his new status with Sean, he reasoned there had to be something else that was amiss that his subconscious was aware of and was trying to point out to him. As with all things that can vex the senses, once he figured out what it was, he wondered how he missed it all this time.

Andy had barely said more than a couple words to the entire crew in that entire time. Internally, Tyler berated himself for not paying attention to him more. While his love for Sean seemed to be growing every day, he also knew that Troy and the others were counting on him to keep an eye on Andy if he was acting weird. Once he caught on, Tyler did his best to keep one eye on him the rest of the day.

It hadn’t been fully discussed between Troy and Tyler exactly what it was he was supposed to look for exactly, or what he was supposed to do if he noticed anything. For now, he figured his best course of action was to just keep close and not let him out of his sight until after they were back at the office. Once he got there, then he’d say something to Troy and let him handle it.

“Did you wanna come over to my place tonight for dinner or did you have anything else in mind?” Sean’s question caught him off guard as they were both kneeling on a roof, slowly pulling up old shingles to replace later.

It still surprised Tyler that Sean continued to work when he knew he didn’t need the money. When he mentioned it a week ago, Sean just shrugged and said he liked keeping busy. “Uh, sure.” Tyler was looking down at Andy who was standing on the ground with his hands on his hips, looking around absently.

“Great! I can make us a Greek pork roast.”

“Sounds good,” he replied absently.

Sean lost some of his enthusiasm as he stopped and looked over at him. “Are you okay? You got quiet the last few minutes.”

Tyler wasn’t sure about what he should or shouldn’t say about Andy’s condition. As close as they were, it didn’t feel right telling him about someone else’s problems. “I’m fine. Sorry. Just keeping an eye on things.”

Sean chuckled quietly. “If you were anyone else, I’d be worried you were checking out the other guys.”

Tyler smirked. “Hardly. There’s only one guy who’s got my interest.”

That loving smile came back as Sean leaned in closer to him. “So, you’re good then? With dinner tonight?”

“Yeah. I’d love to.” Tyler turned to look at Sean, smiling back at him.

“Good.” He took a step closer and added in a quiet voice, “how about you bring a change of clothes with you. You can spend the night and we can go to work together in the morning.”

Tyler grinned. “Well, if you insist.”

“I do.”

Tyler laughed. “Back to work.”

Sean gave him a good natured air kiss before getting back to work.

Tyler took one last look down on the ground to make sure Andy was still there before joining Sean in removing the final pieces of the old roof.

When everyone broke for lunch Tyler came up behind Andy, watching his body language before he spoke up. Even if Andy sounded like his normal self, Tyler could see subtle signs that his thoughts seemed far away. “Andy. How much longer do we have today?”

Andy turned suddenly and his eyes showed some surprise which gave Tyler the impression he hadn’t been paying attention to what was going on around him. “Oh, I dunno. Should be able to get this done in a couple hours. Why? Hot date?” He smirked and looked to where Sean was sitting on the ground next to some of the other workers as they ate.

“Something like that,” Tyler replied with a small smile as he followed Andy’s gaze. “What have you got planned tonight?”

Andy shrugged. “Bri is taking the kids over to the orchard to spend the night. Then he and I are supposed to be planning our wedding.”

“Oh,” Tyler said with a widening smile. “So, when are you guys planning on having it?”

Andy grinned at his reaction. “I’ll know once we sit down and start planning it.”

“And that’s tonight, huh?”

Andy looked him curiously. “I just said that.”

Tyler nodded. “I know.” Tyler also knew he was hiding something. After being around him for over two years, he’d learned to discern if Andy was telling the truth or just part of it. “Just wanted to make sure, I guess. Well, maybe sometime soon I’ll be getting dressed up again.”

“Count on it,” Andy said with a grin. “How’s things with…” he tilted his head in Sean’s direction.

Tyler gave him a genuine smile. “Never better.”

“That’s what I want to hear,” Andy said with a chuckle. “Go on. Finish your lunch and then get back to work before it gets hot enough to bake you up there on that roof.”

Tyler backed away and gave Andy a playful salute before heading back over to the others. He made sure he sat at an angle where Andy was still visible to him and would occasionally observe him looking down at the ground as if he was deep in thought. It was possible Andy was telling the truth, but Tyler couldn’t shake the feeling that something odd was going on. While keeping up with the conversation around them while everyone ate their lunch, Tyler was thinking back to all the times he’d been with Andy and all the things they’d shared. While he cared about all his friends, it was his memories spending time with Andy that meant the most to him. If there was something wrong, he wanted to believe Andy wouldn’t lie to him. He would have to be more direct with his questions. He didn’t want Andy to slip a half-truth past him if he could help it.

The next couple hours passed slowly and the men had to take a few extra breaks due to the excessive heat. But the more breaks they took, the more impatient Andy seemed to get. In all his memories, Tyler couldn’t remember Andy acting anything but calm and accepting of the situation whenever things were that hot in the summer. Tyler decided this had to be more than just a case of wanting to get home so he could start wedding plans. Andy was planning something, but whatever it was, he hadn’t told anyone. Tyler knew he needed to devise a plan of his own before it was too late.

Conversation with Sean helped but the later it got in the afternoon, the more strained Tyler could see Andy become. He wasn’t yelling at anyone yet, but he could hear a tightness in his friend’s voice as time passed. Tyler and the others doubled their efforts laying down plywood to replace the water damaged sections of the roof before rolling out the asphalt paper over the wood before applying the new shingles. At one point, Tyler looked down at Andy who stood there rigidly with his arms over his chest and a tight frown on his face. When he saw what was around Andy, he got a sudden idea about what he could do, but he would have to be quick and as quiet as possible. When Andy walked around the other side of the house to check on the other workers, Tyler saw his chance. He scrambled down the ladder as fast as possible and quickly got what he needed. Before Andy returned to his side of the house, Tyler was already back up on the roof and back to work.

Tyler and Sean along with the other four men on the team applied the final shingles and were starting to put the equipment away when he decided he needed to act. He wasn’t sure what to expect next, but he had to be prepared. He turned to Sean and said in a hushed voice, “hey, can you gimme a minute? I need to talk to Andy about something.”

“Okay. I’ll get everything in your truck and wait.” Sean gave him a smile before picking up the cooler Tyler always brought with him in the summer and hauling it to Tyler’s truck.

Tyler turned towards where Andy was still standing, gathered up his courage and walked over to him. He stopped a few feet away from him and started picking up Andy’s cooler. “How’re you feeling?”

“Fine,” Andy muttered before looking over at him. “What’re you doing?”

“Helping you,” he replied. “You sure you’re alright?”

Andy’s lips tugged down in a slight frown. “Yeah. Just wanting to get out of here.”

“Because you want to get home to Brian?”


Tyler started walking the cooler over to Andy’s truck. “Because that’s where you’re going after this, right?”

Andy turned his full attention to Tyler now as his frown deepened. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“I’m just saying you don’t sound like yourself.” Tyler felt a moment of concern that he was going too far. But he couldn’t back down now. “You’ve been distracted most of the day. And definitely not acting normal.”

Andy gave him a lame smirk. “Whoever said I was normal?”

Tyler knew that was an evasion. He’d come too close to the truth and Andy was trying to throw him off. He walked the cooler over to the back of Andy’s truck and saw a duffle bag he’d never seen before stored in the bed of the truck. “What’s this?”

Andy followed behind him. “Leave it alone…”

“I wasn’t planning on opening it.” Tyler turned to him, doing his best to show no fear but letting his concern show in his eyes. “Seriously. What’s wrong?”

A rare frown that was almost a glare looked back at him as Andy replied, “nothing, Tyler. I’m fine.”

He looked into his friend’s eyes and didn’t see any true anger. Only scared of getting caught. That’s when Tyler knew this is more serious than he thought. “You’re lying.”

Andy opened his mouth only to close it again. “Ty… just, drop it. I have some errands to run before going home. That’s all there is to it.”

“It’s not Tuesday,” Tyler stated. “You don’t have a meeting to go too. Yeah. I know about them.” He watched as Andy glared at the ground. “Look at me. Tell me what’s going on.”

Andy’s face turned pensive. “It’s not worth worrying about. I just have something I have to do before going home.”

Tyler smirked slightly. “News flash: You’re worth worrying about.”

Andy looked down at his shoes and Tyler was almost shocked to see the most vulnerable, broken look in his friend’s eyes. Whatever was going on, he knew he couldn’t leave him alone. “Tyler… Just… trust me on this.”

Tyler shook his head. “I want too. I really do. But I need to hear you tell me what it is you’re doing.”

“I need to go,” he replied in a quiet voice. “There’s something I have to do. Something I’ve been avoiding for too long now.”

Tyler put his hand on Andy’s shoulder and leaned in closer. “You need to tell me more than that. Where are you going?”

Andy felt his body shake for a moment. “I can’t tell you.”

“Why not?”

Andy was still staring at the ground. “Because you’ll try and stop me. Or you’ll call Troy or Jacob and they’ll try and stop me. I have to do this.”

Tyler thought about it. Calling Troy would be a good idea. But, at the same time, Andy sounded like he was on the verge of something. He sounded convinced in what he had planned. “Okay. If I let you go, you have to do two things.”

Andy rubbed his eyes and shook his head. “What?”

Tyler felt a little strange giving Andy, someone he always looked up to, orders and bring the one in charge. “First off, you have to promise me that you’re not going to hurt yourself.”

Andy sighed. “I promise… What’s the other thing?”

His face hardened a little as he crossed his arms over his chest to show his determination. “I’m coming with you.”

Andy looked up sharply. “No. That’s not gonna happen.”

He shook his head. “It’s out of your hands. Whatever you’re going through, whatever this is, you’re not going to go through it alone.”

His friend’s face darkened slightly. Tyler almost lost his nerve but held onto his faith in their friendship. Andy’s voice took on a harsh edge to it. “I don’t have time for this.”

Tyler showed no fear and his voice remained calm. “It’s already done. I’m not backing down from this. The only way you’re not going to take me with you is if you knock me out.” The veins in Andy’s neck bulged slightly but he wouldn’t back down. “You might be angry and maybe not in your right mind right now. And no matter how mad you are right now we both know you won’t do that. You know you’re my friend. I care about you. Whatever you’re going through, let me help you.”

Andy cursed silently as the tension in his face eased. “What about Sean?”

“I’ll go explain it to him,” he replied with a sigh. “I’ll be right back.”

“What makes you think I won’t take off while you’re talking to him?”

Tyler grinned and looked behind him as he walked away. “Because you’re an honest guy even if you’re full of shit sometimes. And the fact that I got your keys.” He pulled the keys he swiped earlier out of his pocket and shook them as he headed over to Sean and his own truck. It gave him a small measure of comfort when he heard Andy chuckle as he headed over to Sean. He didn’t like having to do this but doing something for a friend who was obviously in distress was more important than a dinner and sex.

Sean was watching him with a concerned look as he walked up. “What’s going on?”

“Our dinner date is going to have to wait for a day or two,” he replied with a sigh.

Sean’s eyes flicked from Andy in the distance back to him. “Is he alright?”

“I don’t know,” he answered honestly. “But, one thing I do know is that whatever is going on with him, he needs a friend right now and I’m it.”

“We should call Troy or his boyfriend,” Sean said as he stood up a little straighter.

Tyler hated disappointing Sean. “Believe me. If I thought it would help I would. But I think whatever is going on with him, he doesn’t want them to know. I have to do this.”

Sean frowned slightly. “Do you know where you’re going?”


His frown deepened, letting Tyler know he didn’t like that answer. “Do you know how long you’ll be gone?”


There was a moment of silence between them before Sean seemed to make up his mind. He sighed and looked down at Tyler with his grey eyes full of emotion. “I love you. I really mean that. Promise me you’ll come home as soon as you can.”

Tyler smiled as he looked away, feeling that familiar warmth of Sean’s love wash over him that threated to bring tears to his eyes before he could control himself and return his gaze. “I love you too.” He reached into his pocket and pulled out his keys. “Here. Take my truck back with you. You’re gonna have to tell Troy that I took Andy on a trip. I don’t know how far it is or where we’re going, but I promise I will make sure I bring him back in one piece. Hopefully better than how I found him.”

“Okay,” he said quietly. Sean blinked, suddenly thinking of something. “Here.” He reached into his back pocket and pulled out his wallet. Opening it up, he handed over one of his credit cards. “Take this. I don’t want you out for too long and if you’re gone longer than you expect, you’ll want some clean clothes.”

Tyler frowned. “I don’t need your money.”

“Take it,” he said as he pressed it into Tyler’s hand. “If you’re my boyfriend, and I love you as much as you love me, let me help too. If I can’t go with you, then I want to be able to at least make the trip a little easier for you.”

Tyler felt a sting in his eyes. They had never put a word to describe their relationship before, even if they loved each other so much. That he would say the word out loud, without any feelings of caution or embarrassment made his feelings even stronger. “Okay,” he managed to say quietly. “I love you. I promise I’ll be back soon.” He pocketed the card and then leaned up and kissed Sean softly, unaware and not caring if anyone saw them.

Sean took Tyler’s keys with a small smile. “I’m holding you to that.”

Tyler took a few steps backwards watching him as he got in his truck before turning to rejoin Andy who was leaning against his truck. It was obvious he’d been watching them. “When are we leaving,” he asked.

“Right now,” Tyler said. “You’re riding shotgun.”

“I can drive.”

“Maybe,” Tyler said sarcastically. “But I’m going to drive so you can relax because you need it. Get in.”

Andy stared at him for a minute before complying. “When did you get so bossy?

Tyler wished he had an answer for that. Right now, he was focused on starting the truck up and thinking about Sean and how much he loved him. “That’s what you get for leaving me in charge once. Now, where am I driving?”

Andy sat back in the passenger seat, rubbing his forehead. “Pittsburgh. Then take I-70 west.”

Tyler pulled away and started navigating his way out of town. “For how long?”

“Until we reach Indianapolis.”

Tyler blinked and paled slightly. “Oh boy.” Tyler turned onto the main road that would take them out of town, and the two friends settled in for a long road trip.

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

I’m betting Andy & Tyler are heading to Scott City, MO. Unless he knows which cemetery Brandon is interred in, he’ll need to do some research. I believe Andy needs to talk to Brandon to say goodbye. He never got the closure he needs and it’s still tearing him up all these years later.

If the Team was clever, they’d have installed that spy software on Andy’s phone so they could track him and maybe check to see the URLs he looked at on his phone. Sure it’s kind of sketchy legally, but they have good reason to want to be able to track his movements, both physically and electronically. There’s a case that could be made that Brian, as fiancé has the right to monitor him. Just because it’s there doesn’t mean they’ve been checking up on him.

I’m so disappointed that Drake won’t be seeing David!

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21 minutes ago, FanLit said:

I hope Brian understands and they can get past Andy doing this (did he leave a note?)

Sean will talk to Troy and Troy will certainly inform Brian. It’s not enough, but at least he’ll know that Tyler is there with him. I’m guessing that Brian will stay at David’s house for the weekend with Andy’s boys…

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13 minutes ago, Jdonley75 said:


While there is most likely a military cemetery in Indianapolis, that is not their final destination.  Indianapolis is just where they take their next turn to get there. (the real destination is already mentioned.)


“Backtracking to find the destination I obviously overlooked”....

Edited by FanLit
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2 minutes ago, FanLit said:

“Backtracking to find the destination I obviously overlooked”....

6 minutes ago, droughtquake said:

I’m betting Andy & Tyler are heading to Scott City, MO.

Does this help?

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3 minutes ago, droughtquake said:

Sean will talk to Troy and Troy will certainly inform Brian. It’s not enough, but at least he’ll know that Tyler is there with him. I’m guessing that Brian will stay at David’s house for the weekend with Andy’s boys…

Hm... Good guesses... ❤️

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Poor Troy. Two of his most experienced workers have just abandoned their jobs for a road trip! And he doesn’t even know when he’ll get them back…

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9 minutes ago, CaJu said:

I think Andy is going to see Brandon's parents. Hopefully, that's a good idea and will really help him and not hurt him more.

Nice that Drake and Jason also get their happy end.

Write more soon. I really love your style.

Thank you so much.

There'll be more to Drake and Jason before they exit the stage for good.  As for Andy and Brandon, all will be made clear soon.  Well... soon...ish....

Edited by Jdonley75
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1 minute ago, droughtquake said:

On Sunday, right?

LOL.  Hardly.  The next chapter isn't even finished yet, much less proofed. 

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2 minutes ago, Jdonley75 said:

LOL.  Hardly.  The next chapter isn't even finished yet, much less proofed. 

I thought you were quick!

Edited by droughtquake
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23 minutes ago, Jdonley75 said:

I'm pretty sure Thorn hasn't read this story. lol 

That’s why I quickly edited my Comment. But not fast enough. I was getting this story confused with Camp Refuge (for no logical reason).

Edited by droughtquake
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Thanks for another great chapter, looking forward to the next.

I am so happy for Drake and I hope it works out for him. He was such a good friend and mentor to Tyler and I kind of felt sorry for him being left behind while everyone else seemed to be forging ahead with their budding relationships. Here's hoping he can find his special someone.

Hope Andy can finally face and bury his demons,,,can't wait to see the full story behind Brandon, Will be ready with a full box of tissues.Good on Tyler, he's with Andy so I know it's gonna work out.

Thanks again for the great story....loving it,

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So Drake and Jason hooked up - and that it happened at the wedding! Who knew? Happy for them both.

Really hoping Andy begins to get some closure with regard to Brandon. I have a feeling some Kleenex might be needed soon.

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2 hours ago, Jdonley75 said:

Poor Troy....

Having to face certain doom when he tells Brian his fiance has disappeared...

While he will only be the messenger, Brian will irrationally blame him for not doing more to stop Andy from running off. After David and/or Jacob talk to him, he’ll realize it wasn’t Troy’s fault. He will also realize that Andy was going to do this no matter what any of them did. At least he can feel secure with Tyler chaperoning him.

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“It’s like he filled this space inside me I never knew was empty. I don’t know how else to describe it.”



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I’m just glad that Drake and Jason found each other. Looking forward to the next post. :)

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Great chapter!  When Drake mentioned meeting someone at the wedding, I was thinking it was Jason!  Good for them!  I'm so glad that Tyler figured out that Andy was going to take off - clearly without telling anyone.  Thank you so much!

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