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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 - 36. Chapter 36

The sun was shining overhead as Tyler carried the final box of clothes out to Drake’s car. A sense of finality in the moment caused a heaviness to set into his heart. Around him, the leaves on the trees had faded from the bright green of summer to the yellows and oranges of autumn. Many of them lay on the ground and crunched under his boots as he made the final trip out of Drake’s house. The air had a chill to it, but the sun overhead kept him warm as he placed the box of clothes into the backseat of Drake’s car and shut the door.

“Well,” he said as he turned to regard his friend, “you’re all set.”

Drake gave him a charming smirk, only serving as a reminder to Tyler of the first time they met. “Yup. Looks like it’s time. Jason’s expecting me in two days.”

“You sure you’re going to be okay on your own out there,” Tyler asked him.

Drake chuckled at Tyler’s concern. “Yes, I’ll be fine. You have nothing to worry about.”

Tyler bit his lower lip as he looked at the friend he had loved and cared for. The person who had showed him so much and helped him out of his shell at a time in his life when he was scared of everything. “I’m really going to miss you.”

“I’m going to miss you too,” he replied. “But, there’s always phone calls, text messages and Facebook. I might be a couple thousand miles away, but that doesn’t mean we won’t be friends anymore.”

“I keep telling myself that,” Tyler said as a slight tremor entered his voice. The feeling of loss seemed stronger than he thought it would have been. Drake wasn’t dying. He was just moving away. Far away. “I really can’t thank you enough for what all you’ve done for me.”

Drake grinned. “I didn’t do anything, stud. You went through a lot and I just was there from time to time.”

“Maybe, but you helped a lot.”

“I did what I could,” he conceded. “You know, you could come visit. You and Sean take a road trip and visit for a couple days. Jason’s place has a spare bedroom and he liked meeting you last time he was here.”

Tyler smiled slightly. “We will. Once we… figure out what we’re doing.”

“What does that mean exactly,” he asked with a curious smirk.

Tyler shrugged and sighed. “Oh, we’re fine. It’s just that I think I really want this to last. But his life is… complicated.”

Drake looked at him, with that same smirk. While he knew Sean well enough, there always seemed like some secret he was keeping. He trusted Tyler and he seemed to know more about Sean than he did, but of course he was keeping something to himself. “Just tell him how you feel and go from there. I have a good feeling he wants more too.”

Tyler nodded. “I wish you could have waited another week. Andy won’t be home until next Wednesday. I’m sure he would’ve wanted to say goodbye too.”

Drake nodded. “Jacob already said his goodbye. And the same goes for Andy as far as coming to visit. How’s he doing anyway?”

“Seems to be fine last time I got a call from him,” he replied with a shrug. “He’s wanting to come home bad but they’re really running him through some intense therapy, so he says. But it makes things better in the long run. He’s not sure about the drugs they’re giving him though.”

“Everything will work out.” Drake’s self-assured tone gave Tyler hope that Andy would come home better than how he left. After a moment of silence between them, Drake said softly, “I need to go.”

Tyler hugged him tightly and felt the same given back to him. “Be safe. Text me when you get there.”

“I will,” he promised. Drake gave him a soft kiss on the cheek before saying, “I’m really lucky to have met you, Tyler Brewer. Thank you for being a good friend when I needed one.”

Tyler smiled even as the words brought tears to his eyes. In all their time together, it never occurred to him that Drake may have needed his friendship as much he did. “Go,” he said. “I know Jason is going to make you so happy.”

Drake smiled and let go of him. “You’ll be hearing from me soon.” Tyler smiled and stepped away as Drake got into his car. He kept his smile in place as he watched one of the closest friends he ever had give him one final wave before driving off down the street and out of sight.

Tyler sighed and closed his eyes, feeling as if a part of his life was forever lost. It was one thing to call and text but knowing that there would be no more meetings at the bar, trips to the club in Pittsburgh or dinners with him and Sean was a bitter pill to swallow. A part of him worried that the distance put between them would slowly erode the close bonds they used to share as calls became more infrequent and texts would go unanswered for days at a time. But even if those things did happen, Tyler took some comfort in the fact that the memories they made together would live on in his heart the rest of his life.

When he arrived home, he opted to lay down and take a nap. Sean was busy with something when he texted, and Tyler had a feeling it was family related from the way his voice sounded on the phone earlier when he called. He double checked his phone before plugging it into the charger and laying down on his bed. Despite himself, his mind started going over the memories of his times with Drake over the last two years. It was a little embarrassing to remember how timid he had been in the beginning. The uncertainty of knowing what you want but not knowing how to take those first tentative steps.

All that had been made easier because of Drake. Tyler wondered what could have happened if he had taken the friendship more seriously. It may have spared him having to suffer through those dark months with Alex. They might have been happy together over time. But he would have also missed out on the opportunity with Sean. Someone who had been so annoying to him when they first met and now, he wished nothing more than to have him there lying next to him. Touch, kissing and talking quietly. Ultimately, he decided that things worked out in the right way. And Drake was right; they would see each other again someday.

Tyler didn’t even realize he had fallen asleep until he heard a soft giggle near his ear. As his eyes slowly opened, he saw a pleasant smile and soft grey eyes staring back at him. He managed a sleepy smile as he yawned. “Hey. I didn’t hear you come in.”

Sean smiled lovingly at him before giving into the temptation to run his hand down the side of Tyler’s face. “I noticed. I called out to you, but you were dead to the world.”

Tyler grunted as he started to sit up. “It must have been all that moving I did this morning.”

“I’m sorry I couldn’t be there to say goodbye.” He stood up from the bed and watched Tyler as he fumbled to change clothes. “Actually, I need to talk to you about something.”

Tyler glanced over as he opened a drawer to pull out a new shirt. “Is it bad?”

Sean tilted his head thoughtfully even as he grimaced slightly. “I wouldn’t say bad. More like… challenging, maybe?”

Tyler didn’t like the sound of that but decided to just roll with it. “Well, what is it?”

“Do you have any plans for Christmas this year,” Sean asked.

Tyler pulled the shirt on and looked at him dubiously. “It’s just now the end of September. Isn’t it a little early to be planning that?”

“Not in some parts of the world,” Sean commented dryly. “My dad wants me to come home. I told him I wanted to stay. He said I had to come home.”

“You’re a grown up now, Sean,” Tyler said with a smirk. “Daddy can’t make you do anything you don’t want too.”

Sean’s face took on a more pensive look. “Well, that’s not entirely true. He has a lot of sway on my finances. But I think I got a decent compromise out of him.”

“Oh, yeah? What’s that?”

“He said I could stay until Christmas. He throws a super huge party every Christmas with lots of our friends and he’s putting his foot down about that. He’d never forgive me if I don’t come back for that.”

Tyler shrugged. “Okay. Sounds fair. So, what is it you want me to do?”

Sean hesitated for a moment before he blurted out, “come with me.”

Tyler blinked and took a step back. “W-why?” Sean stared at him for a long moment as Tyler watched his eyes dim.

“I was wanting to introduce you to him and have someone there with me so I didn’t feel alone,” Sean replied with a much more subdued voice. “But if you don’t want to go, I can manage.”

Tyler knew he’d said the wrong thing, twice in his life, and needed to fix this now. “I didn’t say I didn’t want to go. I just wanted to know why you would want me there with you.”

“I would think the answer to that would be obvious by now.” He turned and walked out of the bedroom.

Tyler felt a chill run down his spine. Without meaning to, he’d make the same mistake as he had with Alex. “Sean, wait.” He followed him into the front room, hoping the same thing wasn’t going to unfold in front of him. “I didn’t mean I didn’t want to go. I just want to know more.”

Sean sighed and sat down on the couch. “I probably should have said that in a better way.”

Tyler joined him and offered him a small smile. “Maybe. I shouldn’t have reacted so negatively. I’m sorry for that.”

Sean seemed to struggle for words before saying, “my dad isn’t horrible, Ty. He’s just… set in what he expects of the world. And me in particular.”


“He’s a pretty well known guy in the business. He’s made a lot of money producing movies, TV shows, all sorts of stuff.” The more Sean spoke, he became more comfortable with what he was sharing. “I told you that I had some bad experiences with boyfriends around there because they were just into me because of what I could do for them. When I slipped into a sort of depression over it, that’s when my dad allowed me to go out and see the world. He didn’t really expect me to find anyone much less want to bring them home.

“I want to take you with me for a lot of reasons. The biggest reason is because I love you and I don’t want to spend a day without you if I can help it.” Tyler’s cheeks reddened and a smile forced its way onto his lips. That served to only bring out Sean’s smile and his confidence. “Another reason is that I want my dad to meet you. I want him to see that not all gay guys are like the others were. I want him to see that there’s someone out there who’s more interested in my happiness than my money. The other reason is, well, I just want you to be able to enjoy life for once. I know I said I don’t want to flash my money around here. But I do want to do things for you. I want to show you the kind of life I’d want us to live together. If you would ever want this to be a permanent relationship.”

Tyler smirked and gave him a side-long look. “I could swear I heard something in there that almost sounded like –”

“—No, no,” Sean waved his hands and chuckled softly. “I don’t want to rush things between us. When I decide I want to do… that, then I want to do it right.”

Tyler cocked and eyebrow as his smirk turned into a mischievous grin. “Who’s to say I won’t do that before you do?”

Sean moved closer to him and put an arm around his shoulder. “Then I guess then I’d be a lucky person.” He leaned in and kissed him softly. “I love you, Tyler,” he added in a soft voice. “I’ve loved you since I first laid eyes on you. You make me feel like the luckiest guy in the world that I get to be with you. I’m sorry it took me awhile to work up the nerve to tell you.”

“I’m pretty lucky too,” he replied. “You know… I used to hate it when people called me ‘Ty.’”

“Is that your way of telling me to stop?”

Tyler looked at him with a warm smile. The only other person who’d used that name for him in his life was his dad when he was a little boy. After his father left, he never liked anyone else calling him that. He let it slide a couple times with other friends, but now when Sean says it, it fills him with a warmth he’d never felt before. “No. I like it when you say it.”

Sean gave into the temptation to kiss him again only to find out it was better than that last. “So… will you come to California with me for Christmas?”

Tyler looked into his eyes and realized that his reluctance before was just his old insecurities coming back to haunt him. With his fears banished he realized there was nowhere else he wanted to be. “Yes. I’ll talk to Ma and tell her. Maybe I’ll just exchange gifts with her a couple weeks early.”

“Thank you.” Sean’s face glowed as they kissed again with a familiar passion within that they had both come to love.




Brian was pacing back and forth in the living room. He’d tried to be patient, but that had worn out half an hour ago. In his mind he kept visualizing where Nate and Andy would be on their journey back to the house. He’d wanted to go himself to pick up Andy from the airport in Pittsburgh, but he knew he’d probably get overly emotional and it didn’t seem like the thing Andy should have to go through after having spent nearly a month away from home while going through what Andy referred to as “prolonged exposure therapy.” They’d spoken on the phone several times every week but just hearing Andy’s voice was enough to make his heart ache. In the first week since he left, Andy hadn’t sounded optimistic almost to a point where he was thinking about giving up on it. But Brian had talked him into staying, knowing what Andy needed most was that his family was there with him in spirit. The boys would get time to talk to their dad each time he called and that settled their own fears about their father never coming home. Brian had his hands full dealing with Tanner’s occasional withdrawal from his friends and Brian along with Blake’s almost constant need for affection. David had been a big help, coming to visit and keeping the boys mindful of how their dad would be coming home before they knew it. Brian wasn’t sure how he would have managed without David’s constant positive outlook. Seeing him console Tanner or Blake made it easier for him to believe that Andy was going to come home better than how he left.

Nate had stayed the entire time while Lisa went back to Cleveland shortly after Andy got on his flight to Arizona. He’d slept on the couch for the first week before Brian decided to make the boys share a room so their uncle could sleep in a real bed. His cooking was almost as good as Andy’s and that helped make the overall mood in the house less gloomy than it might have been if Brian had been the one forced to feed the children with his limited range of ability. Stephanie had come to visit as well more often than before, and Brian knew exactly why that was. But he appreciated her presence because it gave him an outlet to talk to someone where the topic didn’t begin and end with Andy. She would inquire about him once in awhile with Brian, but only when she seemed to sense that Brian needed someone to listen to him. While Brian had liked her as a person before, the two of them were bonding and becoming close friends, which he was thankful for.

Brian couldn’t imagine finding anything peaceful about spending weeks in a desert like Arizona but after the initial first week, Andy had told him it was a beautiful area and he was feeling a little better every day. He knew things were really improving while on the phone with Andy and heard that casual, carefree timbre in his voice. It had been something Brian hadn’t heard in a while and when it came with a joke and a laugh, Brian had tears in his eyes from just hearing it. After that phone call, Brian could finally tell himself that everything was going to be alright and believe it.

Now, he was waiting and pacing while the boys were downstairs playing games. At first, he thought about having Kyle and the others to be there to welcome him home. But he decided overwhelming Andy right away might not be the best idea. If it turned out Andy was better off than expected and wanting to see everyone, it wouldn’t take more than a few text messages to have an impromptu party to celebrate his return. Despite all that, he couldn’t shake a sense of nervousness and an almost primal need to have Andy back in his arms.

The sound of a familiar engine filtered into his ears from outside and he looked out the window to see Nate’s car pulling into the driveway. “Boys get up here! Your daddy is home!” He hadn’t meant to shout, but the sudden rush of excitement made him unable to completely control himself. Deep inside, there was a thrumming sensation building and he had to check himself to keep any tears from falling as he heard the scramble of two young boys coming up to greet their father.

Even though it could have only been seconds since he heard the engine silence, it felt like an eternity passing before the sound of feet were heard and then the door opened up. Brian’s eyes fell on Andy and there was no way to hide his tears of joy as he heard the boys whoop and scream. Andy laughed as he bent down to receive the loving embrace of his sons.

“Daddy you’re dark,” Blake exclaimed as he hugged his dad fiercely.

Andy chuckled. His usual tan he would get while working over the summer had been absent before he left. Being out in the sun for weeks in Arizona had made his skin turn an almost bronze color. But what really drew Brian’s attention was the bright green eyes that seemed so much more like the boy he fell in love with years ago. “I was out in the sun a lot the last month or so. Do you like it?”

“Yeah,” Blake said with a bright smile.

Tanner had his arms around Andy’s neck with his head buried in Andy’s shoulder. He didn’t say anything at first and it was obvious that he was overcome with emotion as he finally said in a choked voice, “dad, please say you’re not leaving again.”

Andy gave Blake a kiss on the forehead before disengaging the boy from him. He put both arms around Tanner and stood up, holding his oldest son in his arms. “I’m home now, my beautiful boy,” he said in a reassuring tone. “I promise I will always be your dad and always love you.”

That was enough for Tanner to release his grip on Andy’s neck. He looked into his dad’s eyes and nodded as he wiped his tears. “I missed you so much,” he said with a tear filled whine.

“Not as much as I missed you.” Andy pulled his head back to rest on his shoulder as he held his oldest boy close. “Nothing is going to keep me away from you again. I promise.”

Nate stepped in, carrying Andy’s duffle bag and setting it on the floor before closing the door behind him. He stood there with a relieved smile as he watched Andy and his boys reunite. “Tanner, let’s give your dad some air, huh?”

“He’s alright,” Andy replied. He gently nudged Tanner’s chin to meet his gaze. “You’re alright now, aren’t you?” Tanner looked into his dad’s eyes and nodded as his tears stopped. Andy gave him one last kiss on the cheek before setting him back down.

Brian’s eyes hadn’t left Andy since he walked in. Once he carefully placed Tanner back on his feet, Andy stood up and faced his lover with bright green eyes and a slowly widening smile. In that moment, Brian saw the handsome mischievous teenager from that special night they shared in high school from so long ago. The first person he had ever fell in love with. Gone were the clouds that had hung over him for so long. The emotional scars that he had so carefully hidden from everyone seemed healed and his entire body language was different. More confident in himself or possibly more aware of himself. Brian couldn’t wait to hear about his trip, but for now he just wanted to touch him, feel him and know that he was back. Before he could say anything, Andy swiftly closed the distance between them and had his arms around Brian before he realized what was happening. In the next breath, Andy’s lips met his and they shared a passionate, loving kiss that spread a warmth throughout his body. He clung to Andy as fiercely as he could as their kiss became a reaffirmation of their love and devotion to one another.

Andy finally broke their kiss and held Brian close as he whispered, “I’ve been wanting to do that for weeks now.”

Brian’s breath came out as a shudder. All he could think of what holding onto Andy and never letting go. “You sound so much like you used to,” he managed to say. “I’ve missed you so much.”

“I’ve missed you more,” Andy whispered before gently kissing the bottom on his ear.

“Welcome home, sweetheart,” Brian said a little louder and sounding more like himself. “How do you feel?”

Andy smiled with his green eyes shining. “I feel good. A little tired from the flight and the three hour layover in Dallas. But I had a good time at the ranch, once I got used to things.”

Brian smiled in pleasure that Andy sounded so upbeat about the experience. “So, what would you like to do today? It’s just us here. If you want Troy and the others to come over, just let me know and I’ll text them.”

Andy’s smile shifted a little as he got a rueful look in his eyes. “I do want to see them. But I think I want to just focus on my family for today. I can go visit the others tomorrow.” He released his hold on Brian and retrieved his bag. “Right now, I just want to get cleaned up, change clothes and spend time with the four of you.” He turned his gaze to his sons and got a mischievous look in his eyes. “And I got pictures.”

“Of what,” Tanner asked.

“Me,” he replied with a smirk. “Riding a horse.”

Blake and Tanner’s eyes lit up. “That’s so cool!” his older son exclaimed.

Brian grinned as he watched Andy effortlessly claim their full attention. “Well, once I get cleaned up, I’ll show them all to you.” With a pleased grin, Andy shouldered his bag and headed upstairs.

Nate chuckled slightly as he stepped around Brian and the boys. “I think I’ll go ahead and start prepping for dinner.”

Brian watched as everyone went about their tasks. The air in the house seemed clearer now than it had been in weeks. Maybe longer. He whispered a silent prayer of thanks and hoped this was the new start of their future together.




Troy sat on the cold grass, examining the picture with a dubious eye. “I think this is photoshop,” he commented with a playful smirk before handing the tablet back to Andy.

The others chuckled in fun as they sat under the apple trees. The harvest had ended weeks ago but, despite the cool breeze that rattled the drying leaves in the trees around them, the five of them sat near one of the trees, wearing their jackets to give them some warmth from the wind. “Shows what you know,” Andy countered with a good natured smirk as he took the tablet back.

“So, other than the horses, what else did you do while you were at this therapy camp,” Jacob asked as he leaned back against the tree next to his friend.

“Lots of talking with a counselor,” Andy replied casually. “There were about fifteen of us there and seven counselors. There was a lot of one-on-one time followed by group discussions. We had stuff to do to help us keep our minds focused. We fed the horses and the dogs and other animals there…”

“They put you to work,” Brian asked with a puzzled face. He tilted his head back where it was resting against Andy’s chest to look up at him. “That sounds like slave labor or something.” He took the tablet from Andy and started going over the pictures himself that he had already seen.

Andy chortled. “That was part of the therapy actually. And it did some good. It got all of us to share stuff with each other. After a week of being there I realized I had it a lot better than most. The guy I bunked with lost both of his legs in the war. And PTSD on top of that. Made me feel like I was taking up space. But once I started talking about Brandon and everything else that happened, he had more sympathy for me than for himself. How’s that for a wakeup call?”

“How did they help you manage your flashbacks and everything else,” Kyle asked from his spot next to Jacob.

Andy smiled a little as he looked at the ground. “They had me talk about what happened. Over and over. Learning how to stay focused on where I was while talking about what happened. That was the hardest part. Talking about Brandon dying or some of the other stuff I saw. But it did help. The point was to get me to be able to remember it and not freak out about remembering. There was other stuff too. Meditation. Learning to relax and release built up tension. Stuff like that.”

Troy leaned forward, keeping his eyes on Andy. “But what’s with the animals and stuff? What’s the point in that?”

“They give you something to be responsible for. Most of them are therapy animals. A dog or cat or anything that you feel an attachment to and it’s your responsibility to care for it. You bond over time and it gives you a good feeling to be able to connect like that. That makes it easier for you to connect with the others who are going through the same thing you are.” Andy shrugged. “I know it sounds weird and I was skeptical myself at first, but it helped.”

Brian looked over at Troy with a little smile on his lips. “It’s been a week since he got back, and he’s slept every night.”

“How do you know I slept every night,” Andy asked as he let his hands rub Brian’s hips.

“Because I set up traps to catch you if you woke up and got out of bed,” Brian explained as he went from one picture to the next. A pleased smirk lifted his lips.

“You’re full of shit,” Andy muttered before leaning down to kiss Brian’s cheek.

Brian looked over at Kyle and Jacob and rolled his eyes dramatically which got the chuckles from the others he was hoping for. The five of them fell into a companionable silence as the autumn sun began to fade into the horizon.

Coming out to the orchard together wasn’t something that they could do very often. There were children to feed, diapers to change, work to be done or other interruptions in their lives that made finding time to just be together difficult. But today, they were celebrating Andy’s return home together as a team while everyone else was inside playing games, watching movies or just talking catching up. And while they cherished their other friendships and all the additions to their unique family over the years, the bond between the five of them went beyond all of those feelings and it was a need to just be together, separated from the rest of the world. It was only a brief moment for them to renew their bonds. To heal and prepare for the future.

Jacob was the first to speak up. “Well, next week I start chopping down those trees Dad decided to get rid of.”

“Best to do it before the baby gets here,” Troy commented. “Still don’t know if it’s a boy or girl?”

“I think I know,” he replied with a growing smile. “But I’m still trying to wrap my head around the idea of having a child that’s going to be a part of me.”

Kyle, Troy and Andy chuckled softly, knowing that there’s no way to truly prepare for it until it happens. “Did you finally settle on names at least,” Brian asked. “Last I checked, you kept going from one to the other.”

Jacob smirked and nodded. “Yeah. I got names now.”

“Well…?” Kyle looked over at him, waiting for him to continue.

Jacob grinned at him playfully. “You’ll find out when the baby arrives. Which should be in about two weeks.”

“You sure about that,” Troy asked with a smirk.

“Stephanie’s due date is the 20th. That’s two weeks from today,” he replied with a shrug. “We decided if she still hasn’t coaxed the baby out by then, then they’ll induce, and we’ll hopefully have him or her by the next day.”

Andy scoffed. “It’s never that easy. I’ll put twenty bucks on the baby will be here on the fifteenth.”

Jacob gave him an odd look before Brian piped up. “I’ll say the ninth. I bet baby’s getting tired of being cooped up in there.”

“you guys and your bets,” Jacob muttered with a roll of his eyes.

“Put me down for the seventeenth,” Kyle said with a grin.

“Twelfth,” Troy said with a nod and a smile.

They all turned their gaze back to Jacob, silently coaxing him to join in. He gave them all a half-hearted disapproving frown before he sighed and said, “okay. Fine. The thirteenth.”

The all chuckled before getting to their feet and making their way out of the orchard and back to the house.




Stephanie watched with an amused smile as Carter laid his head on her belly with his ear pressed down. Nearby, Liz was muffling her giggles as she watched her son’s intent face as he listened for any sounds. “What do you hear,” Steph asked the little boy who she thought looked so adorable in that moment.

Carter turned, putting his other ear on the same spot and stared up at Stephanie. Up was a relative term at the moment, seeing as she was mostly laying on her back on the couch. She’d been there for most of the morning except to get up to use the bathroom frequently. At least she was able to get up on her own for once without Jacob or Kyle’s help. Considering both of them were out of the house at the moment, she took it as a good sign.

“I don’t hear anything,” the little boy declared. From the look on his face, Stephanie got the idea that Carter thought she was making up the whole thing about having a baby inside her.

She glanced over at Liz who was just shaking her head and trying hard not to laugh. “Well, trust me, it’s in there,” she said. “Hopefully not for much longer.”

“How much longer now,” Liz asked her.

“One more week,” she said with a sigh. “The due date is next Saturday but we’ll induce on Friday so the doctor can take the weekend off.”

“No signs yet,” Liz asked her curiously.

She shook her head. “And it’s funny because with Matt, I swore every morning that it was gonna happen for like two weeks before he finally decided to show up.” She rolled her eyes even as she chuckled. “I swear, if this one does that, I’m gonna just hang a pork chop between my legs and try to lure them out.”

Liz laughed. “Not sure it works that way. But you never know. Just relax and go with the flow.”

“Speaking of flow. Carter, sweetie, move so I can get up.” Stephanie slow started to maneuver her body off the couch. The little boy moved and then took her hand and pulled to get her up, eliciting another giggle from Liz. “Be right back.”

Liz giggled and pulled Carter into her arms. “You amaze me sometimes, little prince.”

Carter giggled and rubbed his nose against his mom’s. He’d been disappointed when he arrived to find Matt wasn’t around. Kyle had taken him out with him while he ran errands and Jacob was deep in the middle of the orchard, supervising the removal of some of the trees. All that was left was Stephanie and David who was in his study, doing the final paperwork for the end of the season. While Matt may not be there, he was still enjoying himself with Stephanie.

Liz turned her attention to her sleeping baby in the carrier next to her. She’d been awake when they first arrived but after a bottle and some attention from her mother and Stephanie, she soon fell asleep peacefully. She’d come to enjoy having Stephanie around. It gave her another woman to spend time with that wasn’t someone she worked with. They got to talk about a number of topics, and they found more than a few common interests. She was fascinated by some of Stephanie’s stories about working as a lawyer and grew to appreciate her instinct and ability. They also discussed more personal topics as well. Mostly surrounding a certain tall red head.

Stephanie returned to the room and went to sit in the rocking chair Jacob had made for her. As she walked past, Liz looked at her profile and got a curious look on her face. “Have you had any cramps lately?”

“One or two,” she replied with a shrug.

Liz gave her a meaningful look. “They felt like cramps or contractions?”

Stephanie looked at her and smirked. “Maybe a little of both,” she replied.

“Whoa! Wait. Really?!”

Steph laughed. “It’s just cramps. Well, I think they are.”

“And what were you just now doing in the bathroom?” Liz leaned towards her, giving her an appraising look.

Steph rolled her eyes. “There was a little pink in the bowl…”

Liz nodded as if she expected the answer. “Start telling me when you feel these ‘cramps’ of yours. Have you called your doctor?”

“This morning,” she replied. “Don’t tell anyone just yet.”

Liz gave her a droll look but decided to just play along with her for now. They went on talking about other matters and Stephanie was recounting a humorous story from her work when she felt the first real painful contraction. Liz sat up a little straighter and waited for her to say something. She noted the time before encouraging her to continue. When she had to go make a new bottle for Emily, Liz instructed Carter to stay with Stephanie, “so she won’t be lonely.”

Stephanie turned to Carter. “So, what are you going to be for Halloween this year?”

Carter’s face broke out in a happy grin having been asked an important question. “I’m going to be War Machine this year!”

Stephanie smirked in amusement. “Why not Iron Man?”

“Blake is going to Iron Man. I get to me War Machine, his best friend!”

“Ah.” She nodded in understanding. “Anyone else dressing up as superheroes?”

“Matt’s gonna be Spider-Man. Tanner’s gonna be Thor and Chase is going to be Captain America.” The more he talked about it, the more the excitement seemed to radiate from him.

She giggled, only to wince slightly through another contraction that passed in a few seconds. “I can’t wait to see pictures from all of you then.” She made a mental note to ask Kyle and Jacob about all that at some point soon.

It was around one in the afternoon that Stephanie gasped in pain and Liz clocked it past twenty seconds that she finally said, “alright. I think it’s time you make a phone call.”

Steph closed her eyes as she caught her breath. “You think?”

“Trust me. Carter, sweetheart,” she said to get her son’s attention. When he got up off the floor and went up to his mom she said very sweetly, “could you go into your grandpa’s study down the hall and tell him that the baby is coming?”

Given a task, the boy grinned and nodded before running out of the living room. Liz stood up, taking an appraising look at Emily and decided she would be fine for a few minutes. “Do you have anything upstairs ready you want to take to the hospital?”

Steph shook her head. “No. I wasn’t planning on staying.”

Liz helped her up just as she heard footsteps approaching quickly. She suppressed a grin as Carter dashed into the room followed quickly by David whose eyes were shining as he took in the sight of the two women. “Is it time?”

Stephanie held up a hand to forestall any premature celebration. “If it’s not, I get to be very pissy the rest of the night.”

David grabbed his phone out of his pocket and called up Kyle as Liz started to talk Stephanie through another contraction that was a lot sooner than she expected. “Son stop whatever you’re doing and get home now. Stephanie just went into labor.”

“I need to pee,” she said as she gritted her teeth.

Liz took her hand. “I’ll help. David, watch the baby, please?”

David nodded as he placed a second call that he’d prayed he would make. “Jacob? Stop whatever you’re doing and get back to the house. It’s time.”

“Is Stephy sick,” Carter asked him curiously after the women left the room.

“No, not exactly,” David replied as he gently scooped up a now awake Emily and cradled her in his arms.

“Why’d she go in the bathroom twice,” the little boy countered.

David smirked. One of his favorite things in the last year is seeing just how many questions Carter can ask in a row. So far, his record has been twenty. “She’s going to have a baby soon. And… well… she needs to go.”

“Is she having the baby in the bathroom?” Carter’s facial expression made it look like he wasn’t sure that was a good idea.

“No, sweetheart,” David said with a chuckle. “We’re gonna take her to the hospital once she’s ready.”

Carter stared at him in confusion. “Do I have to go?”

“No,” he replied with a chuckle. “You’re staying here.”

“How’s she going to get there?”

David grinned. “Oh, I’m sure someone will be along who’ll take her.”

Seconds after that, the back door flew opened and the sound of stomping feet rang through the house as Jacob rushed down the hall. “Where is she?”

David looked up to see Jacob standing there with his blue eyes shining bright and his face twisted in anxious fear. Carter stared up at Jacob in amazement, having never seen him look so big. “Everything is okay,” David said to him calmly, hoping to get him to relax. “She’s in the bathroom with Liz. They’ll be out in a minute.”

Jacob eyes darted around as his mind tried to process what he said. “What should I do?”

“Wait,” David replied simply with a smile.

“Where’s Kyle?”

“On his way home now.” David hoped his son would get here in time to help control his husband.

Jacob started walking back and forth as he was slowly formulating what to do next. His body felt heavy and his breath slowly quickened while his mind slowly was starting to come to the realization that in a few hours he could have a newborn child – his child – in his arms. Being a father to Matt had been one of the many joys he’s gotten to enjoy over the previous months. But this was different. This would be starting at the very beginning. A new life that will be a part of him forever. He remembered the feeling he got when Stephanie told him in February that she was pregnant. The feeling he had then was much like what he felt now. Anxious and excited crashing into each other in his heart and all he could think about was if he was going to be better than the father he had.

“Jacob.” David’s strong voice dispelled the turbulent feelings inside him long enough for him to turn and look at… at his father. Maybe not his real father but more deserving of the title than Joe ever did. The look on David’s face was passive and relaxed as he expertly held Emily in one arm. He was, to Jacob, a living embodiment of a practiced parent, doing two things at once and making it look easy. A small smile lifted his lips as he met his gaze. “It’s going to be alright,” David said, once he knew he had Jacob’s attention. “Stay calm and Kyle will be here soon.”

Jacob blinked as his eyes started to get wet. In that moment he loved David so completely as the father he wished he could be someday. There were still so many things to say to him that he never felt comfortable or had the time before now. But David was right. He had to put all that aside and focus on what was important. “I’m alright. Just nervous, I guess.”

“It’s understandable, son.” David looked down at the baby in his arms who smiled up at him and squealed happily. “As much as getting married changes you, having a child is like being reborn yourself. You’ll look at the world differently and dream bigger. You’ll see all the hope and promise in their eyes and pray that they’ll never want or worry in their entire life.” He smirked and chuckled silently as he ran a finger over Emily’s cheek before looking back up at Jacob. “You’ve already been a good father to Matthew. You’ll be just as good with this one too.”

The words helped Jacob’s mixed feelings settle and his body relaxed more. A small smile appeared on his face and he just nodded. “Thanks, Dad.”

“That’s what I’m here for,” he replied before turning his attention to Emily.

A door was heard opening and Jacob turned to look as Stephanie slowly emerged from the hallway with Liz assisting her. Stephanie looked slightly frustrated and Liz had a smirk on her face. Jacob started to move towards them, but Liz halted him with a hand. “It’s okay. She needs to do a little walking anyway.”

Jacob wasn’t deterred from asking a few of the questions in his head. “What’s going on? Do you need me to get you anything?”

Stephanie grumbled under her breath. “We’re getting there. But they decided I should wait for awhile before showing up at the hospital.”

Jacob was confused. “Why?”

“I did a quick check while we were in the bathroom,” Liz said. “She isn’t even halfway dilated yet, so I called the doctor and asked her what her opinion was. She said we should give it another hour.”

“Kyle should be home any minute now,” David said. “Liz, we may need you to take Matt to Andy’s house. That’s the plan they set up for just in case this becomes and all night situation.”

She nodded, unconcerned. “That’s no big deal. I should probably call Troy and have him pick up Chase from school too.”

David nodded in approval. “Call Andy first. See if he wants Troy to pick up both of the boys while he’s at it.”

Liz got on her phone to start making calls while Jacob helped Stephanie. He thought, given what she was going through, that she would want to sit down. But she insisted on slowly walking around the house, stopping in the kitchen to get a bottle of water before returning to the living room. David kept Carter’s attention as he held Emily and talking to her as well, all while keeping a smile on his face. Jacob stayed near Stephanie, ready to leap into action as soon as he was told.

A few moments after Liz finished making her calls, everyone heard Kyle’s car come up the drive and a few moments later, come running into the house with Matt close behind. He stopped just long enough to take in the sight of everyone in the room before he said anything. “About how much time do we have left, Steph?”

She sighed and shrugged. “This isn’t the same as with Matt. My water hasn’t broken yet and my contractions are still over half an hour apart. They’re starting to really hurt though.”

“Alright,” he said with more confidence and authority than Jacob felt as he watched his husband start to take charge. “We need to call Andy and I need to get Matt over there, just in case this goes until morning…”

“Already handled,” Liz said with a smile. “I’ll be taking Matt over, if that’s alright with you.”

He gave her a grateful smile. “Thank you.” He then turned his attention to his son. “Matt.” The little boy looked up at him attentively. “Run upstairs and get your little red bag and bring it down. The one I made you pack the other day?” The boy’s eye brightened slightly and ran upstairs to grab it. “Who knows so far?”

Jacob smirked, wanting to grab Kyle in his arms and hug him tight for how calm he seemed. “Troy and Andy for sure. Probably Brian.” He reached into his pocket to take his phone out. “I should text Tyler before we leave and let him know what’s going on.”

Kyle nodded in assent before turning his full attention to the mother of his children. “Steph? Seriously. How are you feeling?”

She looked up at him from her seated position in the chair. “I don’t have any sudden urges for global domination. Yet.”

“Well, thank God for that,” he replied with a grin. “If you think we’re going too slow, feel free to scream and Jacob will have you in the truck in record time. Won’t you, dear?”

“Part of why I haven’t left her side since she got out of the bathroom,” he replied.

Kyle looked at his father who was grinning from ear to ear. “Dad? Did I overlook anything?”

David stood and gently bounced Emily in his arms as he walked over to his son. “Not that I can think of. I’ll call Helen once we’re in the hospital and let her know what’s going on.”

He grinned as David gave him a peck on the cheek. “Just make sure to tell her I will call her after the baby is born and we’re all settled in. I don’t need her texting or calling wanting play-by-play while we’re coaching Steph through labor.”

Matt returned moments later with his bag over his shoulder. Kyle couldn’t help himself from smiling proudly at his little boy as he squatted down to look him in the eyes. “Okay, Baby boy, your aunt Liz is going to take you over to see Blake and Tanner and you might be staying the night there. But before you go, I want you to give me, your dad and your mom big hugs and kisses okay?”

The little boy grinned and wrapped his arms around Kyle’s neck as they hugged. “Love you, daddy,” Matt said before giving him a kiss on the cheek. Kyle grinned and ran a hand through the boy’s soft hair before urging him to let go. Matt went over to Jacob and gave him the same hug and kiss. “Love you, Dad.”

Jacob grinned and kissed him tenderly on top of his head. “Then I’m the luckiest man in the world. We’ll have a surprise for you probably tomorrow before you’re back home.”

Matt’s eyes went wide with excitement as he leaned back enough to look in Jacob’s eyes. “What is it?”

“You’ll find out soon enough,” he replied before patting him on the rear and nudging him toward Stephanie.

The boy started to climb up into her lap but Jacob held him and lifted him so he could hug her. “Love you, mommy.”

Stephanie had an uncharacteristic reaction as she looked at him with a bright smile. “I love you to, future big brother.” She chuckled at the confused look on his face before leaning in and kissing him gently. “Go on, now. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

Jacob set him back on his feet and Matt stepped over to Carter and Liz while David reluctantly settled Emily back into her carrier. “I’ll walk you out to your car.” They all exited the room, leaving Kyle, Jacob and Stephanie to themselves.

Kyle knelt on the other side of Stephanie and smirked. “Looking forward to this ending?”

“Definitely ready to not be pregnant,” she replied with a smirk. “At least for awhile.”

Kyle and Jacob exchanged puzzled looks. “For a while,” Jacob asked.

Stephanie got a lop sided smirk on her face before saying quietly. “Well, Nathan mentioned something about wanting to have kids. Maybe, in a year or two… if things work out, he can talk me into doing this again.”

Kyle chuckled softly. “Every word in that sentence I would have never expected to hear you say a year ago.”

Stephanie flashed him a dirty look. “Shut up.” They both started to chuckle, but she was cut off by a contraction. She squeezed her eyes shut as the pain started to build. Jacob and Kyle put their hands on her arm in silent support until it passed.

“Twenty seconds, I think,” Kyle said. “You sure you wanna sit around and wait longer?”

She took a few long breaths and nodded her head. “It’s not that bad yet. I’m trying to remember what it was like with Matt.”

Jacob looked unconvinced. “Maybe we should go, just in case.”

“No,” she declared with a shake of her head. “I don’t wanna be laying on my back for hours doing nothing.”

“What is it you wanna do now,” Kyle asked her. “It’s not like you can run around or play a game on your phone.”

Stephanie grumbled just as they heard the back door open and close. David reappeared in the room looking at Stephanie and saying to all of them, “well, they’re off. Andy and Brian are fine with keeping Matt for the night and asked to keep them posted. How are things in here?”

“She just had another one,” Jacob said as his concern grew. “What’s the harm in going now?”

“Let’s just give it another hour,” Stephanie said wearily. “Or if there’s two in the same hour.”

David’s eyes widened slightly in alarm. “If you have two in one hour, that’s a little too close for comfort. I’m with the boys. Let’s go ahead and go now. The worst that happens is we wait a little. If a problem comes up, we’ll be in the right place to deal with it.”

Stephanie hadn’t wanted to think about problems that might arise as she looked up at David with a slightly annoyed face. “You make a good argument.”

David smirked. “Better safe than sorry. For you and the baby.”

Kyle and Jacob got to their feet as Stephanie reluctantly nodded. “Let’s go.”

David started to lead them out of the house when he suddenly paused and swore softly. “Shit. Jacob, you and Kyle run in the barn and get that car seat Andy gave us. They’ll want us to prove we have a carrier for a newborn before they let us leave the hospital and I’d rather use one we already have and not have them charge us for a new one.”

Jacob nodded. “You got Stephanie?”

The older man nodded. “You two meet us there. I’ll get her checked in.”

After helping Stephanie get into David’s SUV and seeing them off, the two men went into the storage barn to locate the baby carrier. Jacob carefully picked through one side of the barn as Kyle took the other side. As he worked through the items as he searched, Jacob smirked to himself. “You know, I got a serious urge to jump you right now.”

Kyle laughed and shook his head. Any time Jacob was feeling positive, his libido would shift into high gear. “Well, you’ll have to wait for a day or two before we can do anything about that.” He moved a plastic cover aside and saw what they were looking for. “Found it. Let’s get it in your truck and get going.”

Making sure it was clean and free of any germs, Jacob expertly fit it into the rear seat in his truck. Before getting in, he grabbed Kyle in a tight hug before kissing him passionately. They lingered in the kiss for a few moments before Jacob finally loosened his hold and said, “I love you more and more every day.”

Kyle’s was red from the intense kiss as he smiled. “Glad to know I’m not the only one who feels that way.”

They stood there for a few more moments just looking into the others’ eyes. Jacob’s hands gently rubbed Kyle’s arms as if to commit the feeling to memory. “We need to go,” he said softly. They climbed up into the truck and they headed off to the hospital.




Andy was standing over the stove in the kitchen when he heard a noise behind him. A smile lifted his face as he recognized the sound. “Don’t touch it.”

Tanner sighed. “But –”

“Don’t touch it.” Andy grinned and looked behind him. “Come here.”

Tanner joined him at the stove. He raised himself up on his toes to look into the pot Andy was stirring. “It smells good,” he commented.

“This is the spaghetti sauce,” Andy explained. “I still need to add the bell peppers, but you want this to simmer for awhile to get it to thicken up.”

Tanner barely held back a lop-sided grin as he looked up at his dad. “What about the pie?”

Andy leaned down to meet an upside down gaze of his son. “Don’t touch it.” He gave Tanner a quick kiss and went back to monitoring his sauce as he stirred. “I made it for us and Matt to celebrate.”

“Celebrate what?”

Andy’s smile took on a softer, prouder appearance. “He’s going to be a big brother soon. Maybe before bedtime. That’s why he’s staying the night with us.”

“Oh.” Tanner replied thoughtfully. “Should I do something?”

Andy chuckled as he asked, “what do you think you should do?”

Tanner shrugged. “I dunno. I’m a big brother.”

“And a good one too,” Andy said. “You make me proud when you treat your little brother right. And I know it’s not easy.”

Tanner smiled, pleased with his dad’s opinion. “How are you feeling today?”

Andy shook his head. This was Tanner’s new thing since he came home. Every day he finds time to ask the same question. While it’s only been just over a week, he hoped it wouldn’t last. His children shouldn’t have to pay for something that happened to him. “I’m fine. Feeling good about a new baby coming our way.”

“Is Matt getting a sister or a brother?”

“Not sure yet,” he replied with a shrug. “Doesn’t matter. We’ll love him or her no matter what.”

Tanner was quiet for a moment while Andy moved around the kitchen to get a pot ready to boil water. Tanner thought about something that had been on his mind for awhile but wasn’t sure how to say it. “Dad?”


Tanner clasped his hands in front of himself, looking uncomfortable. “Grandpa David isn’t really my grandpa, is he.”

Andy blinked and turn to look at the boy curiously. “What’s that mean?”

“He’s, like, not your real dad.” Tanner watched his dad’s face cautiously.

Andy looked at him for a moment, not sure where this came from. He squatted down and motioned his son to him. When Tanner was close enough, Andy put an arm around him and said, “he loves you, just as much as he loved me when I was a little boy. His home is your home whenever you need it. He will always love you, always care for you and always be there when you need him. If that’s not a grandfather, I don’t know what is.”

Tanner seemed embarrassed about saying it out loud. “I guess I was just wanting to know. I’m sorry.”

Andy smiled. “It’s alright. Him, Kyle, Jacob, Troy, and their the kids aren’t related to you by blood. But not all families are normal.” They shared an embrace and Andy could see the clouds clear from those innocent blue eyes and it warmed his heart. “Do you love your grandpa?”


“Then he’s your grandfather. That’s all that matters.”

Tanner leaned in and kissed Andy’s cheek. “But I love you more.”

Andy’s grin and a chuckle was all that kept his heart in place and his eyes from tearing up. “That’s good to know.” He gave Tanner one last pat on the back before getting back up and going back to his pot. “Go on and get your brother and Matt. Dinner will be ready in a few minutes so it’s time to wash your hands and get everyone to the table.”

“Okay.” Tanner trotted out of the room, leaving Andy to himself as he finished up his sauce and boiling water. A gentle smile settled onto his face and in his heart. He hoped someday Jacob would have a moment not unlike the one he just got to experience.




The Howard men were sitting in the hallway, patiently waiting as they had been for four hours. They occasionally spoke, shared jokes and stayed as relaxed as they could considering the circumstances. Stephanie had been admitted and her doctor showed up minutes later. They got her changed and into a delivery room where she had been ever since. Kyle and Jacob had each gone in to check in with her, but she’d been tired and was focused on her breathing. After a couple hours, the doctor asked them to leave so she could do an examination to make sure everything was going as smoothly as possible.

Jacob was visibly worried, prompting Kyle to talk about all the things they would need in the coming days once they got the baby home. Kyle was concerned but knew there was little he could do and focused his attention on Jacob and planning for what comes next after they leave the hospital. “There is so much stuff we still need to get,” Kyle muttered out loud to himself.

“Diapers, clothes, baby proofing the house,” David said quietly. “There’s a lot that goes into taking care of a baby. But everything will be fine. Stephanie is okay and so is the baby. If there were any problems, we’d know about it.” David checked his phone for messages and smirked. “Tyler texted me. Says he’ll be waiting to hear from you when the baby arrives.” Kyle’s lips lifted slightly in a tight smile. He was tired and he didn’t have the calm that his father seemed to exude effortlessly. “Jacob,” David said as he put a hand on his son-in-law’s shoulder. “You’re doing fine, son.”

Jacob nodded absently as he stared at the floor. “I should go back in there and check.” The anxious feeling that had been in the back of his mind all this time was starting to grow again. But along with it, everything else seemed to expand as well. It felt like his wedding day, the day he proposed to Kyle, their fight in the workshop and their first dance all in one and he wasn’t sure whether to laugh, cry or just scream in frustration that there was nothing he could do. He’d lost track of time and was more than a little surprised when he looked at his phone and saw that it was past seven o’clock. A quick glance out of the nearest window confirmed it and he checked a sigh of disappointment that something was going on that he had no control over. He started to stand up and then changed his mind. “I wish Liz was here.”

“She’s not assigned to the natal ward,” David reminded him. “She can only do so much.”

“Fuck this.” Jacob stood and headed towards the door to the room Stephanie was in. He gently turned the knob and opened the door to look inside. She was still in the same place he last saw her in. Her face turned to him and she smiled slightly as he came over to her. “What’s going on,” he asked her.

“I’m having a baby. Didn’t you hear?” She grinned as she saw a smile lift the gloom off his face. “No worries, baby-daddy. It’s getting close to showtime. The contractions are inching closer together and before long we’ll be starting the big push.”

“Did your water already break,” he asked.

She nodded. “About half an hour ago. They just finished getting me all cleaned up. Lucky you.” They shared a laugh only to be interrupted by another contraction.

“Hold on. Keep breathing,” he said as he took her hand. He felt her squeeze as she started groaning. As painful as it looked and sounded, he noted the look of determination on her face. An indomitable will that wasn’t going to give into the pain. While he had come to like her in the last few months, he was just now discovering a new side of her and his respect for her grew with each labored breath she took.

“Okay,” she said as she panted. “That one was pretty strong.”

“Stronger than the last couple,” Dr. Altman asked as she came over from the charts she had been reading.

Steph nodded. “Lasted longer too.”

“I noticed.” The doctor turned to look at a readout on a machine and nodded. “Okay. I think we’re ready to go.” She turned her attention to Jacob and said, “why don’t we have one of the nurses get you a smock or something for you to wear. And clean up.”

Jacob’s eyes widened and he looked to Stephanie. “Will you be alright for a few minutes before we’re back?”

“It’s not like I’m going anywhere,” she replied with a tired smirk. “Go on. Go get changed.”

“We’ll be right back.” The doctor motioned for a nurse to take him to an adjoining room. After he finished washing his hands thoroughly and putting on some scrubs, he hurried out to the hallway to get Kyle. “It’s time!”

Kyle heard the excitement and anxiety in Jacob’s voice and quickly came to the door. But when he walked in the doctor stopped them both. “Whoa. There’s gonna be two more nurses and God only knows who else in here. We don’t have room for two of you. It’s one or the other.”

Jacob’s excitement suddenly drained out of him as he looked at Kyle. He felt like he was being cheated out of an experience he should be sharing with his husband. The thought of raising a fuss about it started to gain traction in his mind before Kyle placed his hand on Jacob’s forearm. “It’s okay,” Kyle said gently. “This is your moment. I want this to be a special day for you.”

“I want it to be a special day for us,” Jacob said with sad eyes.

Kyle smiled warmly and leaned in to kiss his cheek. “Hey. Remember our vows? I’m with you always. Now, do your first job as a father to our new baby and help her through her delivery.”

Jacob looked like he was going to object but he relented instead. “Alright. I love you. I’ll see you soon.”

Kyle smirked. “We’ll see about that.”

Once the door closed, Jacob turned his attention to Stephanie and moved over to her. “Are you ready to do this?”

She looked up at him and nodded. “You got names ready?”


“What are they?”

“You’ll find out when the baby is born.”

“Oh, you’re mean…” she gave him a pouty face which made him laugh and relax. Kyle might not be here with him, but the ring on his finger, and the love and appreciation he felt for him and Stephanie would be enough for him to be strong for Steph and their new baby. “Okay. I’m ready.”




It was past midnight and Andy knew he should be asleep, but he hadn’t heard anything in hours about what was going on at the hospital and he just couldn’t bring himself to actually calm down enough to fall asleep. He and Brian had put the boys to bed not long after they got the message from Kyle that Jacob was going into the delivery room. The two of them went back and forth for awhile but there was no news so Andy let him go so Kyle could keep his mind on what was going on.

Brian had gone to bed not long after the boys had. Lately, Andy would join him and went through his relaxation routine to help himself fall asleep. But with all the excitement of a new baby coming soon, Andy was feeling too good and wanted to stay up until he heard what happened. He kept himself occupied with a book that David had loaned him. It was a fantasy novel that was one of David’s favorites. He said that it was good for escaping the real world from time to time and so far, he had been proven correct. A small relaxed smile was on his face as he laid back on the sofa, flipping the pages as he went.

One of the things that had changed in the house since his return was that all the pictures of himself and his unit from his time in the corps were no longer hidden away. They didn’t fill every wall in the house, but he found it easier now to feel pride in his accomplishments rather than feel a sense of trepidation that just seeing a picture from those days would prompt a negative response. Over time he had gotten used to seeing them and at worst, he would stop and look at a picture and be filled with a kind of melancholy as he remembered a certain face or voice from the past. It was never as traumatizing for him to remember now. Only a sense of fondness for another place and time in his life.

Getting deeper into the novel, Andy found himself having trouble keeping his eyes open and opted to close the book and head to bed. As he got up to start turning the lights off, he heard the sound of a car outside the house stop. Curious, he went to a window and peeked outside. A shiver went down his spine and a grin lit his face as he saw a lone figure walking up to the door. Not wanting to wake anyone, Andy opened the door and turned on the porch light as David reached the top step.

Andy’s grin faltered when he saw David’s face with tears running down onto his bearded cheeks. His brown eyes seemed brighter than he could remember. “The baby?”

David’s smile appeared shaky as he mumbled with a barely suppressed joy that threatened to bring on more tears. “A boy. Eight pounds, three ounces. He and his mother are doing just fine.”

Andy’s own eyes started to water as the wonderful news. He silently laughed, feeling thrilled for both Jacob and Kyle. “What’s his name?”

“Aaron Scott.”

The pride filled tears on David’s face were enough for Andy to hug him tight. With a new life brought a new beginning for all of them. A new sense of hope better things to come. It was a blessing for Kyle and Jacob, but it was also a meaningful moment for them all. Andy knew he would need to wake Brian up but for now, what mattered was to enjoy the moment and get ready for happier days ahead. “Congratulations.”

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

It was so nice to see Andy return. It was cute how Tanner clung to Andy after he had appeared to be so secure while dealing with his father’s absence. Such a contrast with how his brother was quickly and easily reassured. Proof that even though they endured so much from Andy’s depression and PTSD, they are both still innocent young boys.

I’m glad that his therapy in Arizona was successful. I’m guessing that there will still be a very occasional trigger that causes Andy to feel some moderate depression. But nothing as severe as he was suffering from until recently.

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4 minutes ago, Andre Delport said:

From now through to the end, we are in new territory, so to speak.

What? You didn’t read the side-story where Space Command commandeers the entire village and the orchard for their new headquarters? The gang is forced to move away in separate directions! Such a tragedy.

Instead of concentrating military facilities in the only a few regions, they’ve decided to disrupt lives elsewhere through Eminent Domain, depopulating huge swaths of prime land. Some say there are ulterior motives involve that have nothing to do with military necessity. But why would they be so machiavellian?

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4 hours ago, droughtquake said:

It was so nice to see Andy return. It was cute how Tanner clung to Andy after he had appeared to be so secure while dealing with his father’s absence. Such a contrast with how his brother was quickly and easily reassured. Proof that even though they endured so much from Andy’s depression and PTSD, they are both still innocent young boys.

I’m glad that his therapy in Arizona was successful. I’m guessing that there will still be a very occasional trigger that causes Andy to feel some moderate depression. But nothing as severe as he was suffering from until recently.

No two kids are the same.  Even if they're brothers, they reacted differently to Andy's absence and his return.  Tanner is going to probably make a very interesting character later on in life.

As for Andy and his PTSD, of course it is never going to completely go away.  But he's learning how to live with it instead of despite it.  He will still have his moments, but his ability to deal with them and reach out for help when he needs it will make it much easier to bear from now on.

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1 hour ago, nix said:

Which all of us will be able to read when you write the third book about the orchard people, right?? Lol.

Probably.  But there will also be a collection of short stories that I'm sure Tanner and the others will find their way into. 

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24 minutes ago, Jdonley75 said:

I'm sorry it's taken this long just to get one chapter out. 

It’s fine no worries! If Star Wars fans can wait for decades to see how their favorite movie saga will end, I can wait as well. 

28 minutes ago, Jdonley75 said:

Hell, Matt hasn't seen as much time as Blake and Tanner have had. 

That’s fine, the way I see it this is both Tyler and Andy’s book so it only makes sense that Blake and Tanner gets more “screen time” lol.

29 minutes ago, Jdonley75 said:

It's an illustration that despite how someone might leave our life at some point, life does go on.

Yes, yes life does go on. :)

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29 minutes ago, Jdonley75 said:

Probably.  But there will also be a collection of short stories that I'm sure Tanner and the others will find their way into. 

And I will be here, waiting for those stories (and for your other future works that will surely be as amazing as this series).

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OMG I could hardly get through that without crying, Ive missed my favorite family so much. From Drakes farewell, to Andys homecoming, to the arrival of Aaron Scott, it was one hell of an emotional roller coaster and I loved every minute of it. Thanks for sharing more of this great story, love it.

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