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    Jdonley75
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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.

The Empty Spaces Between Us - 39. Chapter 39

“Why is it always colder in January than December?” Andy stared out at the back yard through the kitchen window as he held his coffee mug in his hand. The snow from the last two days had risen six inches since then. School had been canceled and he had no work. If Brian hadn’t been with him, he might have gone crazy.

“Seasonal delay,” Brian mumbled as he sat at the kitchen table, reading a book. “Same reason why it gets so much hotter after the longest day of the year.”

Andy looked over his shoulder with a half-smirk. “You’re such a know-it-all…”

Brian’s lips twitched up for half a second but didn’t look away from his reading. “I actually paid attention in school. Unlike some.”

“Hey, I graduated, same as you did.” He moved away from the window to sit back down at the table. His smile brightened when he saw Brian’s eyes glance up at him from his book.

“You’re bored,” Brian declared absently as he continued to read. “Should go outside and play with the boys in the snow.”

“I’d rather play with you,” Andy muttered. There was a gleam in his eyes as Brian’s head raised up to regard him. “And stay very, very, warm.”

Brian sat back as a wide grin covered his face. It had been two weeks since Andy’s last visit to the doctor for a new prescription. The last few days had seen Andy with more energy during the day and sleeping peacefully at night. “Is that so?”

“Oh, yeah,” Andy replied. “But what we really need to do is talk about the wedding.”

“You had a new idea?”

Andy had been weighing options for a while now in their discussions about their upcoming wedding. They both agreed to keep it small with under a hundred guests. When they went over a list of names of who to invite, they came to very small numbers and that suited each of them fine. “I was thinking about the reception. Maybe the ceremony to, if you liked the idea.”

Brian put the book down and gave Andy his complete attention. “Well, let’s hear it then.”

“I think we should get a live band instead of a DJ.”

“What brought this on?”

Andy’s smile took on a smug appearance as he replied. “I have a guy. I could call or email him and see what he says. But I think he’d be willing to help out.”

He was intrigued since Andy rarely mentioned any of the other marines he served with before. “Who is this guy that I’ve never met?”

Andy sat back in his chair. “Name’s Graff. Old buddy of mine from Afghanistan.”

Brian’s interest waned slightly as his face took on a more dubious look. “And he’s got a band.”

“Yeah. It’s something he started up a few years after he discharged.” His animated voice and smirk made him look like a teenager again. “It’s him and a couple other marines and an army guy.”

“Hey, I’m all for your marine friends to visit. Lord knows I’d love to hear some embarrassing stories from your time as a marine,” Brian said with a conciliatory look. “But are they any good?”

“Oh, gee, I dunno,” Andy muttered as he dramatically rolled his eyes. “Come on… It’ll be fun. I promise they don’t suck. They got a couple videos online I can show you.”

Brian gave him a loving if mollifying look. “Alright. There’s still some other things we need to nail down about the reception.”

“I know,” he sighed, losing his smile. “I’m still trying to figure out how I’m gonna pull that off.”

“Could try the sympathy card,” Brian offered.

“No.” He took a drink of his coffee as his eyes drifted thoughtfully to the ceiling. “He wouldn’t go for that. Plus, this is kind of a big deal. You know how protective he is.”

“I think we have a good proposal.” Brian shrugged casually as he got up to refill his coffee. “Just have to find a way to counter all of his excuses.” As he poured his coffee, he absently mulled the idea over. “I think we might need help.”

Andy grimaced slightly. “I don’t want him to feel like he’s being ambushed.”

“So, we plan it behind his back,” Brian said with a playful smirk. He went back to the table and sat down. “It’ll be easy. Just give me a few minutes to text the others and we can set it up.”

Andy eyed him carefully for a moment before his smirk returned. “Alright. Team effort then.”

Brian took a long drink of his coffee, looking over the rim at his fiancé. The question on his lips finally could not be held back any longer. “So. It’s been a week. I’m no expert, but it looks to me like you’re feeling really good.”

“You mean the anti-depressant?” Andy’s smile dimmed only slightly. “I’m still waiting for something to go wrong, but so far, nothing. I think I might be leveling out.”

“It’s working good then?” Brian didn’t want to give into hope just yet. But Andy looked more alive than he had in months.

Andy seemed to think on it for a moment. “Honestly? Yeah. I think this works. I’ll know for sure when I go to my next checkup.”

“When’s that?”

“Next month.” He wasn’t eager to continue the topic. Not because it made him uncomfortable anymore. Rather, he just wanted to talk about normal stuff. “Anything else we need to nail down for the reception?”

Brian grinned. “Song for our first dance?”

“No first dance,” he declared. “We don’t need a silly dance just because we suddenly got married. Hell, we’ve been living here for over a year now and we were in the other house for five months before that. As far as I’m concerned, and don’t take this the wrong way, we’re already married. All we’re doing is a formal party to make it all official.”

Brian shrugged. “Alright.”

Andy blinked and gave him a confused look. “Alright?”

“Yeah,” he replied unconcerned. “I just wanna have fun. Last thing I want is you doing something you don’t want to do.”

Andy was a little surprised but didn’t show it. He had assumed Brian would have pushed back more on the issue. “Okay then. Everything else will have to wait until we nail down the location.”

Brian smiled to himself. “Sounds like.” He took a drink of his coffee before changing the subject. “Tyler and Sean sure looked pleased with themselves the other night.”

Andy chuckled. “And very tight lipped about their trip to.”

“You know Sean’s got money, right?”

“I never asked,” he replied with a shrug. “He was a good worker, he kept to himself other than his infatuation with Tyler and was fun to drink with from time to time.”

Brian shrugged. “I don’t know. It sounds like they’re getting serious. Moving in together and all. And Tyler’s suddenly ‘busy’ with something all the time.”

Andy shrugged. “I asked him if he was going back to work in the Spring. He was kind of evasive.”

“Oh, let them have their little romance or whatever it is they’re doing.” Brian grinned at him suggestively. “And we can have ours.”

Andy put his coffee down and rose from his seat. Slowly, he stepped around the table before gently sitting on Brian’s lap, facing him. Wrapping his arms around Brian, he leaned down until their faces were close enough for their noses to rub together. “The boys are downstairs playing games. Anything you wanna do before they get hungry for lunch?”

Sliding his arms around his lover, Brian leaned up and kissed him gently. “I can think of one or two things we could do.”

“I bet they’re the same things I’m thinking of.”

The two of them got to their feet and quietly went upstairs, locking the bedroom door behind them.

 

****

 

Tyler was sitting on his couch, trying to control his feelings of frustration as he looked over all the forms in front of him. He did what Helen and Sean had suggested and taken a test courtesy of UCLA to see what subjects he might be best in. After an online and later an over the phone conversation with two counselors at the university, it was recommended for the best that he pursue a communications degree. But there was a lot of work to do before then. He had to take placement tests in addition to SAT and ACT to get qualified. He would need to spend some time at the local junior college to brush up on some subjects as well.

Sean alleviated some of the stress by opting to move in with him and help out financially. Tyler wasn’t fond of that idea and let him know that he was able to deal with it from the insurance settlement from his dad, but Sean was adamant that he not touch that until he was ready to start his courses. To make his point even more clear, Sean informed Tyler’s mom of what he was intending to do. Colleen was overjoyed and fully supportive. She and Stan both offered whatever support Tyler would need. The one thing he insisted was that no one else know of his plans. It wasn’t out of a need for absolute secrecy, but rather his own fears that talking about it too much might cause some bad luck to come along and derail all of it.

The two of them talked about it at length for the remainder of their time in Los Angeles. Sean’s dad seemed pleased but kept a neutral stance, wanting Sean to deal with it on his own. Before they left to return home, Rob reminded his son of his own goals and not to wait too long. Tyler pretended not to know that Sean had already gotten a couple job offers. He also knew Sean was holding off for the moment, wanting to focus his attention more on Tyler’s future. That Sean was possibly passing up good opportunities of his own for the sake of his boyfriend wasn’t lost on Tyler and only gave him more determination to see it all through.

If it wasn’t for all the paperwork he had to fill out just to apply for financial aid, any scholarships he might be entitled to, or just filling out forms to take the minimum courses necessary here in town, his head probably wouldn’t feel so swollen. If he had to write out his social security number one more time…

The front door opened, and Sean entered, carrying a pizza box and banishing Tyler’s thoughts of application doom. “Dinner is here.”

“Oh, thank God.” Tyler put the papers down he was working on and got to his feet. “I’m starving.”

Sean chortled as he took the pizza into the kitchen to sit on the counter while he grabbed plates. “How’s it going in there?”

“Horrible,” Tyler replied with a playful pout. “My hand is starting to cramp from all the stupid forms I’m filling out, half of which I don’t even know what they’re for.”

“Grants, scholarships. That sort of thing.” He shrugged and started placing slices of pepperoni pizza on two plates. “It’s a pain in the ass but it’s worth it in the long run.”

“Oh, please,” he scoffed jokingly, “as if you had to ask for money to go to college.”

“No,” Sean conceded with a small smirk. “But I did help some guys I knew fill out their forms, so I know how frustrating and annoying it can feel.” He held a plate out to Tyler who took it and then grabbed some beers for the two of them before they both went back out to the front room. Once they got settled in and all the papers were pushed to one side to keep them from becoming napkins, Sean tentatively looked at Tyler before speaking. “Why hadn’t you told your friends yet?”

“Told them what,” he countered, even though he knew what Sean was referring too.

He was awarded with Sean’s ‘don’t give me that’ look. “About you going to college. What’re you going to do when the snow melts and Andy and Troy are expecting you back at work with them?”

Tyler frowned slightly. “Tell them I’m good for the time being. That I’m looking to go back to school. They’ll be excited.”

“I think you’re making a mistake,” he replied with a shrug.

“What should I tell them, then? ‘Hey, guys, I’ve decided to pack up and move with my boyfriend to California.’” He took a bite of his pizza and concluded, “pretty sure that’ll cause drama.”

“Better to do it now and not five minutes before you leave,” Sean pointed out.

Tyler sighed and took another bite of his food. He knew he would have to tell them eventually and it wasn’t something he was looking forward to. Deep down, his real reason for not telling them was his concern about making such a big move. It was all moving so fast. Since they came back from Los Angeles, planning the move back has been the only thing Tyler had been focused on. While he did enjoy his time there with Sean, once he got over most of his initial fears, he still had difficulty picturing himself building a life there. He knew it was mostly just being nervous. Even Helen pointed that out to him in her own way. If she managed to do it, he should be able to as well.

Ultimately it came down to fear of things not working out. Either with school, his choice in careers or with Sean. He did want to be with Sean, that much was certain. He just wasn’t sure if this was the right kind of life for him. “I’ll talk to Andy when I get a chance.”

“Do me and him a favor and tell him before his wedding.” Sean looked over at him and ate his food. “You want to do this, don’t you?”

Tyler once again banished his fears and nodded. “Yeah. I do. I just want to fit in when I’m there.”

Sean shook his head in frustration. “Just be you, baby. If people like you, great. If they don’t, fuck ‘em.”

That got a chuckle out of Tyler, mainly because of how close Sean’s words were to Jacob’s. “Thanks. I’ll remember that.” They ate a little longer in silence while Tyler thought it all through. “Maybe I should tell Andy in a few days. Just to get an idea of what everyone else would say.”

“That or David,” Sean suggested.

“Hey, speaking of…” Tyler sat up a little straighter and fixed his gaze on him. “How come you never mentioned knowing Helen before?”

Sean blushed and hid a sheepish grin behind his hand. “Uh… you never asked.”

Tyler awarded his answer with a stern look. “While I’m telling Andy and the others, I’m going to have to tell them about you to, you know.”

The grey eyes shifted slightly for a moment in concern but quickly lifted. “That’s fine,” he responded without concern. “The only reason I kept it a secret was because I didn’t want to be judged about being a rich kid and everyone thinking I was spoiled or entitled. They know me without the money already. I’d like to think their opinion of me isn’t going to change. Besides, even if they don’t, there was really only one person whose opinion I cared about.”

It was Tyler’s turn to blush then. As concerned as he was about how he would fit into Sean’s world, he knew there was nowhere else he wanted to be. “Eat. I need you to help me make sure I’m filling all this shit out right.”

Sean smiled to himself. The feeling that things were going to work out between them gave him a new sense of confidence that when he did accept a job in the near future, he wouldn’t feel as alone as he feared he would be.

 

****

 

“I don’t know…”

Andy and Brian sat stoically on one side of the table as they watched David rub his bearded chin thoughtfully as he read over the proposal they handed him when they first sat down in the kitchen. They had worked for days to cover all their bases and made every contingency plan for any objections that he might have. “What is it you’re unsure of,” Andy asked carefully.

David’s eyebrows lifted as he looked over the page at the younger man. His countenance was stern and almost combative. “Well, it’s a lot of space you’d be needing. I’m not sure I have that kind of space available. And how far into the orchard did you have planned?”

“Well,” Brian seemed to pale slightly. He hadn’t expected this much resistance. “We imagined having the ceremony pretty close to the main entrance. You know, down by the visitor’s side. That way there would be plenty of parking.”

David removed his hand from his chin. There was a faint frown tugging at his lips as his brown eyes glared across the table at them. “It’s not that I don’t want you guys to have your wedding here. But with so many people, I’m concerned about damage. The middle of May is when the blooms are just getting ready to be pollinated.”

Jacob wandered into the kitchen, heading to the fridge to get a drink. He was largely ignored as the discussion continued. Andy spoke up, trying to sound casual which only served to make David more cautious. “Well, after the ceremony, we figured we’d move to a more open spot. Kind of away from the trees. The trees would be more like a border around them.”

“Yeah. Like a wall,” Brian smiled helpfully.

“Only this one isn’t paid for by Mexico,” Andy followed up with a charming grin.

Andy’s joke seemed to go right past David as he stared at them impassively. “Speaking of how all this is getting paid: How are you going to afford the clean up?”

“Clean up?” Andy’s eyes widened a little.

“Yes,” David said. “The grass will likely have to re-sodded afterwards with everyone trampling it. Are you planning on not having any electricity out there? You’ll need to figure that part out.”

“Oh, that’s easy,” Jacob said from his spot near the fridge, leaning against the counter. All eyes turned to him, waiting for him to continue. “We can just run a power cable from the shop to that area we cleared the old trees out of.”

“We’re supposed to be putting new trees there once it warms up,” David reminded him.

Jacob smirked and shrugged. “We can wait a year. There’s still a lot of stumps that need to be removed anyway. That’ll take time and even after that’s done, we’ll need to have soil samples taken before we can decide on what kind and how many trees we can manage.”

David blinked in surprise. “Well… still, there’d have to be tables set up, probably a stage or whatever else would be needed.”

“All of which would go over the cleared out area and no one would notice the messed up ground anyway,” Jacob countered.

Before David could respond, Kyle came into the kitchen with Stephanie carrying Aaron in her arms. “Oh, hey guys,” she said as she moved past Jacob to get a drink from the fridge. “What are you up to?”

Kyle produced two bottles and passed one to Stephanie as they both turned to take in the discussion. “Looks serious if Brian’s not laughing,” Kyle noted with a small smirk.

The fact that Jacob and Kyle were both watching intently while Stephanie seemed to only pretend to be uninterested in what was going on at the table tipped David off to the possibility that he had been set up. He sat back in his chair and folded his arms across his chest. “It is serious. Andy and Brian want to have their wedding here.”

“Oh, that sounds like fun,” Stephanie commented innocently as she turned a little in place so that Aaron’s face was facing Jacob.

“It sure does,” Jacob said as his eyes went to the little baby. His smile brightened as he leaned in to kiss the wisps of dark hair on his little son’s head.

“There are still questions about this that haven’t been answered,” David intoned. “I’m not wild on the prospect of turning the entire orchard over to a bunch of party goers.”

“You didn’t seem to have that problem with our wedding,” Kyle pointed out. “In fact, you sounded a little disappointed that we couldn’t have it here because of the hot weather.” Jacob nodded in confirmation.

David frowned at the notion that Kyle was implying that he was playing favorites. “What about power for… whatever they might need?”

The back door opened, and Troy came inside, pulling his coat off as he stepped into the kitchen. “Wow, it’s cold out there. How’s everyone doing?”

David rolled his eyes and groaned silently to himself. “Kids…”

Kyle smirked and said to Troy, “Dad says Andy and Brian can’t have their wedding in the orchard because they wouldn’t have any electricity. Or something like that.”

“Oh, that’s an easy fix,” Troy said absently as he hung his coat up. “I think we got some cable laying around at work we had been using for running a line from one house to a back yard shed. We ordered too much so it’s just collecting dust.”

“What a coincidence,” David deadpanned.

Kyle grinned. “Come on, Dad. Let them have their day.”

David’s eyes went to his son, then to Jacob, Troy and finally Andy and Brian. “You all know what I expect. Treat it right and I’ll be okay with it. Make sure none of the trees are harmed and I’ll put off planting new trees until next year.” His eyes went back to Jacob and narrowed slightly. “But you were already figuring on that, weren’t you?”

Jacob couldn’t hide his little knowing smile. “Maybe just a little.”

“We can make this happen,” Troy said with confidence. “You know, we’re not little kids anymore.”

David’s eyes went back to Troy. His face lost a bit of its sternness as he looked at them with an almost resigned expression. “No. No, you’re not. Fine. You can have your wedding. I owe you that, at least.” The last part he added with a small but kind smile before getting up and leaving the room.

Andy sighed in relief, having only now realized he had been holding his breath. “Well, that went better than expected.”

Kyle watched his dad leave the room with a thoughtful look before leaning towards Stephanie to run his fingers over the baby’s arms. When Aaron’s face suddenly turned towards him, he smiled. “He’s protective of his trees. Always has been. Doubtful he would’ve said no but having everyone line up against him and assure him that nothing is going to be ruined helped him say yes faster.”

Stephanie grinned as she held the baby. “Now all you need to do is plan everything else.”

Troy grinned slightly. “Yeah. Like who’s going to be groomsmen for who?” He moved over to Stephanie, smiling at the baby in her arms as he gave the little baby a kiss on the head.

Brian and Andy exchanged grins. “We were thinking about holding a draft,” Andy said with a chuckle.

“Or just pull the names out of a hat,” Brian giggled.

Kyle shrugged. “Makes no difference to me as long as we all do it together.”

Andy had a sudden thought. “Well, there is one person I feel I need to ask. But I’ll get around to that later this week.”

“No one here is going to feel cheated if they’re not best man,” Troy said. “That kind of stuff has never mattered much. Though, the sentiment is always nice.”

“Well then, I guess my first pick would be,” Brian trailed off as he looked at the others in the room. “Well, it can’t be Andy for obvious reasons. I chose Jacob. Only because Troy already got the job once already in the last year.”

“Works for me,” Troy said with a smirk. “I’m gonna grab my kids and take them home before Liz gets there. Steph? When was Emily last changed?”

Stephanie laughed. “Yeah, sure, ask the chick. Kyle changed her last along with Aaron about an hour ago. She’s been a little feisty today, so have fun trying to put her to bed tonight.”

“Thanks for the warning.” Troy went through the room and headed into the rest of the house to collect his children.

“I don’t know why, but I still just find it hard to believe he has three kids,” Brian commented absently.

“How many did you expect him to have,” Jacob asked curiously.

“Well, to be fair, I never expected any of us to have kids,” he replied with a shrug. “Does that mean we’re all getting old?”

“No!” Kyle laughed at the notion. “We’re still… well, not young. But definitely not old. Or middle aged.”

“Is it weird I feel younger since Aaron was born,” Jacob asked.

“A little,” Andy responded. “Give it time. In a year or so, he’s going to wear you out when you thought you were still able to put in a full day.”

Kyle noted the tone in Andy’s voice. He seemed more alive than he had been in the past month. “How’s your new meds treating you?”

“Great,” he replied. “No side effects so far and it’s been three weeks now.”

“Good.”

“Yeah.” Brian put an arm around Andy’s shoulders. “He’s been doing marvels in the kitchen lately.”

“Oh, man, you have so much more to plan with food and everything for your wedding,” Jacob said. “Should have Kyle help you.”

“Well, if he’s not busy,” Brian said.

“He’s not,” Kyle chimed in with a smirk. “Other than watching our little boy grow fatter, I’ve been pretty chill lately.”

Stephanie cleared her throat meaningfully. “There is that one thing.”

Kyle rolled his eyes. “I haven’t gotten a response yet.”

“What thing?” Andy turned in his seat, curious about what he’s up too.

“It’s nothing,” Kyle replied dismissively. “Just something I ran into online and I’ve reached out to parties involved to see if they needed a representative. Not really a case just yet.”

“Alright then.” Andy remembered the other thing he needed to bring up with his friends. “Hey, ah… about the wedding. There’s going to be some guys coming. They’re some guys I served with. I’ve been emailing them back and forth about coming to play for the reception.”

“Alright.” Jacob looked at him, wondering why he sounded so hesitant. “What’s the big deal?”

Andy seemed uncertain how to say what he was thinking. “Let’s just say, they’re marines and when they celebrate, they celebrate. I’ll try and curb them a little bit but that’ll be asking a lot.”

“Well, we’ll be having a party the night before the wedding, I would hope,” Kyle said. “We can get to know them then.”

Kyle smirked a little just as Troy entered the room again with his children. “How many marines are we talking about?”

“Enough to invade a small island nation,” Brian asked as he looked to Andy.

He chuckled. “Maybe five at the most.”

Troy picked up on the conversation quickly and smiled as he grabbed coats for the boys. “Ten should be enough to invade the town.”

Andy rolled his eyes. “And their equipment.”

Stephanie cocked an eyebrow. “Equipment?”

“They’re going to be the band,” Brian informed them with an impish grin.

“Oh, God,” she replied. “I can’t miss this.”

“Let’s get the boys and go,” Andy said as he and Brian got up. “But first,” he stepped up to Stephanie who grinned and held Aaron out to him. He cradled the little baby in his arms, grinning down at the little face as the baby stared back at him. “Oh, my, you are growing aren’t you. God, you are so perfect.” He looked up at Jacob and Kyle’s proud smiles. “Almost makes me want to have another one.” He leaned his head down and gave Aaron a little peck on the cheek before passing him over to Jacob. “Almost.”

They all chuckled in shared camaraderie before the five friends eventually collected their children and went back to their separate homes.

 

****

Brian hurried to the door when he heard the bell ring with an expectant smile. When he opened the door, his smile widened as he held the door open. “Hey. Get in here before you freeze to death.”

Tyler and Sean stepped inside and removed their coats as Brian closed the door. “It’s not that cold out,” Sean pointed out.

“Yeah, well, wait until the sun goes down,” Brian countered with a grin. “Where’ve you two been?” He gave both of them a quick hug once they were free of their winter coats. “We’ve barely heard from you since you got back and haven’t seen you at all until tonight.”

“Oh, just busy is all,” Tyler replied with a slight red tint in his cheeks. He avoided Sean’s meaningful smirk. He was thankful his boyfriend didn’t add to his statement. They had been busy sending out all of Tyler’s forms and Sean had taken Tyler to Pittsburgh to spend four hours with a tutor to help him with his upcoming tests he was planning to take. They were hopeful that if he passed, his admission to UCLA would be assured in the coming fall semester.

“Uh, huh,” Brian gave him a playful smirk. “Well, let’s keep all that talk away from the kids while we’re eating. Andy’s almost done with dinner I think.”

“It smells good,” Sean commented as he moved into the living room. “What is it?”

“Stewart Stew,” Brian said with a roll of his eyes. When he saw the quizzical look on Sean’s face, he waved his hand. “Don’t ask. He won’t tell anyone what’s in it. Well, other than the obvious. He keeps the spices a secret.”

He chuckled. “Nice.”

Before Brian could say anything else, Blake ran into the room with Tanner trotting in behind him. “Tyler!”

Tyler grinned as he picked up Blake and hugged him. “Hey there, little man.” He suddenly realized Blake was a lot heavier than he remembered. “Wow, you’ve sure gotten bigger.”

The red haired boy giggled as he gave Tyler a squeezing hug. “I’m five now!”

He laughed at the boy’s show of strength and put him back down on his feet. Just as he let go of Blake, Tanner gave him an equally warm reception. “Did you have a good Christmas? Man, it’s been awhile since I last saw you.” Tyler also found him to be much more affectionate than he used to be.

“It was good. Missed you, though.” Tanner let go of Tyler and smiled up at him. “You’ll have to come with all of us next year.”

He felt an awkward tug on his heart, knowing that was probably not going to be possible considering where his life was headed. “I’ll do my best.”

Andy’s voice sounded from the kitchen, getting everyone’s attention. “Tanner and Blake, go wash your hands before dinner. Everyone else take a seat. I’ll be done in a minute.”

Brian and the others settled into chairs around the dining room table. Tyler felt at ease as he sat next to Sean, knowing it was going to be a good dinner. When Sean saw wine glasses sitting on the table, he looked at Brian curiously. “Wine for stew?”

Brian grinned. “I tried to talk him out of it, but what do I know? He’s just in a good mood and wants to celebrate.”

“What is there to celebrate,” Tyler asked as he looked around the table.

Andy suddenly appeared through the doorway of the kitchen with two bottles of wine in his hands. “We finished all of our plans for our wedding. It’s all locked in.”

“Mostly,” Brian said with a playful grin. He took the bottles from Andy and started to pour Tyler and Sean’s glasses.

Sean smiled as he watched Brian pour. He loved spending time with Andy and Brian. They made their life of two gay men with kids seem so normal. “So, what’s left?”

“Nevermind that,” Brian said. “I want to hear about your trip out west.”

“Oh, it was fun,” Tyler said as he took a sip of the wine and found it to his liking. “I met his dad and sort of his step-mom.”

“Sort of,” Brian asked as he cocked an eyebrow.

Sean sounded apologetic as he tried to explain. “She’s not… the most outgoing person around.”

“Ah.” Brian shrugged. “Well, what did you go see while you were out there?” Brian’s voice made the question sound innocent while at the same time his mind was ready for follow ups to lead the conversation in a more interesting direction.

“Not much we didn’t see,” Tyler commented. “We went through Hollywood and did some shopping. Spent time on the beach and did a lot of other stuff. It was a little chilly, so no jumping in the ocean or anything like that.”

“Uh, huh,” Brian said before taking a drink. “See any fancy stars or big houses?”

“A few,” Tyler said carefully as he saw the intent look in Brian’s eyes.

Brian gave him a knowing smirk just as the boys showed up at the table. Less than a minute late, Andy came in with two plates, each covered in a large bread bowl. He sat them in front of the boys and looked to his guests. “Do you want a bread bowl or are you watching your carbs this month?”

Tyler stifled a laugh and said, “bread bowls are fine.”

Within moments, everyone was seated at the table and they began to eat. The first bite Sean took got his mind racing as to what possible combination could be in this to make it so mouthwatering. Conversation was somewhat muted as they all enjoyed the meal. The way Brian ate his stew Sean could tell it was a dish he had had and enjoyed several times in his life. “So, where did you get the idea for this stew exactly,” Sean asked after taking a drink from his wine glass.

Before Andy could answer, Brian spoke up. “It’s his Dad’s recipe. He used to make it a few times through the winter. But only in the winter.”

Sean got an odd look as he thought that over. “Why?”

“Dad didn’t want to make it too many times a year because of what all goes into it,” Andy replied with a secretive smile.

“Family secret,” Tyler asked.

“Yes,” he replied as his smile grew. “A lot goes into it. Not to mention the bread.”

“You made the bread too?”

Andy grinned. “Yeah. Took me awhile to get that just right. The stew itself is a closely guarded secret. Even my mom never knew what was in it.”

“We’re not allowed in the kitchen when he’s cooking it,” Brian added with a little grin.

“When do I get to know what’s in it,” Tanner asked between bites.

“When you’re ready.” Andy chuckled to himself. “It wasn’t until I was sixteen when Dad had me come in the kitchen to teach me. Had Nate stand guard in the kitchen doorway.”

Brian looked over at him and smiled. “Hey, I remember that. That wasn’t in winter, was it?”

Andy nodded. “Well, beginning of December. Nate was home from college. May’ve been closer to Christmas. Speaking of…” He turned his attention to Tyler and Sean, still smiling. “So, what’s going on that you haven’t had time to stop by in the last month? You’re getting as bad as Jacob. At least he has a new kid for an excuse.”

Sean looked at Tyler, waiting to see what he would say. Tyler’s eyes went from Andy to the young boys and back. “I’ll tell you later.”

Andy and Brian exchanged looks and shrugged, deciding to let the matter drop. Minutes later everyone had their fill. Brian and Tanner went about cleaning up the table while Blake followed Andy and his friends into the living room. The three of them kept their wine glasses as they stepped over to the couch to sit together. Before Blake got settled, Brian called him into the kitchen to help them leaving Andy with Tyler and Sean. “That was probably one of the best meals I’ve had in a while,” Sean commented as he took a drink from his glass.

Andy helpfully leaned over to fill Sean’s glass half full. “Thank you. It’s not often I get someone new saying that. So, what’s going on with you two?”

Andy’s bluntness caught Tyler off guard causing his face to redden. “Well…”

Sean smiled an apology to Andy and then turned to look at Tyler. “It’s alright. Go ahead and tell him.”

Andy leaned forward slightly, looking curious and cautious. “Tell me what?”

“We…” Tyler looked at Sean one more time before he finally just said it all at once. “I’m signing up to go to college at UCLA and will probably start there in the fall, and I’ll be moving in with Sean at his house. Well, mansion. In California.”

Andy blinked but the expression on his face didn’t change. “I’m sorry, what?”

A feeling like he may as well have just punch Andy in the face made Tyler feel horrible. He didn’t know how else to say it in the moment. Taking a breath which ended up coming out as a sigh, he started again. “While we were in California, we ended up having a couple meaningful talks. Well, I had one with Sean and another with his father and then Helen at one point or another…”

“Helen? Kyle’s mom?!” Andy turned his head towards the kitchen and called out. “Bri? Sweetie, leave the dishes for later and come join us.”

Brian poked his head around the corner, looking confused. “What’s going on?”

“Just get in here.”

“One second.” His head disappeared and he could be heard giving instructions to the boys whose footsteps soon descended down the stairs and into the basement playroom. He reappeared drying his hands on a towel before dropping it on the table, picking up his wine glass and taking a seat next to Andy. “What’s the big deal,” he asked as his eyes went from Andy to their friends.

Andy stared at Tyler and Sean and pronounced, “Tyler is moving to California and going to college.”

Brian’s mouth opened in shock as thoughts of their own wedding plans may have just been disrupted. “Wait. What? When?”

Tyler held up his hands to forestall any sudden upset feelings. “Not any time soon.”

“Before May,” he asked with a slightly worried look.

Tyler grimaced and looked at Sean who met his gaze with a shrug. “Hopefully not.”

“Well, I kind of need to know,” Andy replied.

Tyler wasn’t sure what to say and looked to Sean for help. “It’s partly my fault,” Sean said in apology. “My dad is eager for me to get a job and start my career.”

“Career in what?” Brian’s gaze didn’t leave him as he awaited an answer.

Sean smiled a little. “While we were in California, I had a couple interviews with some studios interested in me.”

There was a heavy silence in the room and Tyler noted a look of disappointment in Andy’s eyes. “I’ll be here at least until the wedding.”

“Are you sure?” Andy looked up at him.

Sean didn’t seem all that sure but kept silent as Tyler answered. “I promise. I want to see the two of you get married.”

“Well that’s good because I definitely want you to be there.”

“We both do,” Brian added. He nudged Andy slightly and muttered. “Well, go ahead…”

“Go ahead, what,” Tyler asked, expecting a bunch of questions about his sudden news.

Andy worked up a smile and sat up a little more. “That can wait.” Brian frowned slightly and rolled his eyes. “I want to hear more about you suddenly deciding to go to college.”

“Well…” Tyler smiled a little. “I know it sounds crazy. But, if you haven’t figured it out yet, Sean’s dad is kind of a big deal in Hollywood.”

“He’s just a studio executive,” Sean said. “And, yeah, I know they make millions and all that. He handles things like how the scripts get written and making sure things in the studios all stay organized and stuff like that.”

“Like Kevin Feige,” Brian supplied. “That’s what you’re talking about, right?”

“More or less,” Sean replied. “But he’s not a huge name like Feige. He’s a little more under the radar. But you got the idea right.”

“And that’s what you’re going to do too,” Andy asked.

Sean quickly shook his head. “No. I’m looking more for being just a regular producer. Just doing the planning and pre-production side of things.”

Tyler could tell by the look on their faces Andy and Brian didn’t get it. He could understand considering Sean had to explain it to him two or three times before he got it. “Anyway,” Tyler said to get the conversation back on track, “I don’t want to leave Sean and I know this is something he really wants to do with his life. But I don’t want to be just some bimbo on his arm or just leaching off him without contributing anything.” He put a hand up to stop Sean from objecting to his words. “So, after talking it over with a couple people…”

“One of them being Helen,” Andy informed Brian who smirked knowingly. Tyler had a good idea what Brian was going to be doing as soon as they left.

He smiled despite himself and shook his head. He knew eventually there would be more messages from the rest of his friends. “…I decided to put my dad’s money to good use and go to college.”

“Well, that’s good for you at least.” Andy’s smile returned. “What do you plan on majoring in?”

“Communication,” Tyler replied. It still sounded ridiculous in his mind and somehow ironic, but after tests and consultations, he felt that it was the best direction to take.

“With that under his belt, he could get a job doing marketing or legal aide,” Sean explained. “Or, even work with me in some capacity.”

Tyler hadn’t considered that. Maybe that’s why Rob had pressed him in that direction? “All of this is a long way’s off though. But I didn’t want to really say anything until we knew for sure.”

“So, what do you know now,” Brian inquired.

“That I passed my tests and Sean here tells me I’m likely to get into the college next semester. Nothing official yet though.”

Sean shrugged. “He’ll get in. He’s smarter than he admits.”

Andy smiled a little bit seeing the two of them sharing a silent look between them. “Well, I’ll hold off congratulating you until you know for sure. No use jinxing you right now.”

“Stop stalling,” Brian said before he stood up. “Come on, Sean. Let’s let our boys talk while we gossip in the kitchen. I wanna hear smutty celebrity gossip.”

With Tyler’s silent approval, Sean stood and followed Brian into the kitchen, leaving the two friends alone as they looked at each other. After knowing Andy for so long, really his first true friend he ever had, Tyler felt more confident about his future with Andy’s unspoken approval. He waited quietly for a moment as Andy continued to smile at him. Finally, he felt like he had to stay something to break the silence. “Was there something else you wanted to ask me?”

“About going to college, no,” he replied. “Make sure you tell Troy before too long. That’s his alma mater, so I’m sure he’ll have plenty of advice to give you.”

Tyler got the impression Andy was working himself up towards something else. “I’m sorry for dropping it on you like that. I should’ve found a better way.”

“Don’t worry about it.” Andy grinned playfully. “Maybe after you get that degree, you’ll talk more better.”

Tyler chuckled at Andy’s obvious joke. “I’ll make it up to you.”

Andy’s eyes looked up and around as he said, “well, there is one way you could do that.”

“What?”

He sighed and a kinder, appreciative smile brightened his face. “Ty, I really can’t thank you enough for how you helped me when I didn’t even think I needed it.” He put his hand up to forestall the humble response he would have gotten. “Hear me out on this. Looking back on it, I’m not sure exactly what would’ve happened if you hadn’t been stubborn enough to not take no for an answer. As much as the trip to see Brandon and his parents helped, I think that maybe you did more. I’m getting married in four months and as excited as I was about it when I first proposed to Bri, I’m even more energized for it now because I know it’ll be a great day with all of my friends there with me.”

Tyler shook his head. “You did the hard work. I know because I watched you.”

“Well, I’m not wanting to argue with you about it. I just wanted to thank you and show you how much I appreciated you sticking with me.”

“Okay,” he conceded. “So, what is it you want me to do for you?”

“Well, me and Bri are getting married.” He paused for a moment before his lips widened slightly. “I was wondering if you’d consider helping me out with some of the plans.”

Tyler shrugged. “Well, whatever you need help with, I’m willing. What is it you need exactly?”

“Well, first off I’d need someone to help throw a party after we do the rehearsal. Not really that complicated. Just someone to keep his head on straight and make sure things don’t get too out of hand. Mostly informal and mostly just to keep me from doing anything too stupid.”

“That’s fine,” Tyler replied with a shrug. “What else?”

“Someone to make sure all of my groomsmen’re organized before the wedding. And most importantly keep me from getting too crazy.”

He gave Andy a dubious smirk. “You want me ordering around Troy?”

Andy chuckled appreciatively. “That would be hard work, but you don’t have to worry about him. He’s in Brian’s group.”

Tyler’s eyes widened slightly, having a sudden idea of what Andy was really asking him. “Shouldn’t someone like Kyle or Jacob do that for you?”

“No,” Andy replied. “I thought about Kyle and we discussed it, but with Jacob already being chosen as Brian’s… well… Best Man, he felt he should make sure the children are tended to.”

He blushed bright red and looked away. “You want me to be your Best Man?”

Andy laughed softly and nodded. “Yes. Yes, I really would like you to be. I can’t think of anyone else I’d rather have there.”

He couldn’t believe this was happening. “None of your marine buddies? Troy? Your brother? No one else?”

“You.”

Tyler took a moment to let it all sink in. There was so much to do and very little time to do it all in. When he looked back up at Andy, he could tell that this was the most important thing he could do. His friend needed him, and he wasn’t going to balk only because he felt it was too hard. With the decision made, Tyler could feel himself relax. He knew everything would turn out fine and he would make sure Andy’s wedding would be something they would all look back on fondly. “Okay then. I’ll make sure you get to your wedding on time.”

Andy grinned and stood up. “Thank you, Tyler.”

Tyler stood with him and they hugged each other warmly. He knew his time here was limited now. But with the few weeks and months he had left, he was going to make every moment count.

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.
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Well, clearly this is a fantasy because the UC system is notoriously difficult to get into. Just because you are smart and you apply doesn’t mean you automatically get in. Berkeley and LA are the most competitive, but even the smaller, more obscure campuses have way too many applicants for the spaces available. Being an out of state applicant works against Tyler – and his tuition will be significantly higher than for a California resident. The UC system loves the numerous foreign students who are willing to pay the lucrative, non-resident tuitions!
;–)

Being accepted to a California State University school (the middle tier above the Community College system schools, which will take nearly anybody) is less difficult and there are systems in place to allow you to transfer to a UC school while retaining most credits (similar systems allow transferring from a Community College to a Cal State school). I might have recommended trying to figure out a way for Tyler to establish residency first to lower his tuition. As it is, he’s going to need to do spectacularly well on his SATs!
;–)

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I had a feeling I knew what Andy wanted to ask Tyler! I know Tyler doesn’t always feel like a member of the family because he didn’t grow up with the Team, but that’s mostly his insecurity talking. Andy and Troy, especially, treat him much like they’d treat a beloved, younger brother. They are at turns protective, encouraging, and proud of his accomplishments.

California is filled with transplants who move here and immediately try to hide their origins. At least Tyler’s accent is from the general band that sweeps west across the central Midwest into California. It’ll stand out less than a Southern Drawl, a Fargo-esque Upper Midwest accent, or one of the heavy New York City or Boston dialects.

The percentage of California-born residents is fairly low. I am a proud second generation Californian (both parents were born here)! Way too many Texans, Floridians, New Yorkers (NYC in particular), and New Jerseyans.
;–)

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31 minutes ago, droughtquake said:

Well, clearly this is a fantasy because the UC system is notoriously difficult to get into. Just because you are smart and you apply doesn’t mean you automatically get in. Berkeley and LA are the most competitive, but even the smaller, more obscure campuses have way too many applicants for the spaces available. Being an out of state applicant works against Tyler – and his tuition will be significantly higher than for a California resident. The UC system loves the numerous foreign students who are willing to pay the lucrative, non-resident tuitions!
;–)

Being accepted to a California State University school (the middle tier above the Community College system schools, which will take nearly anybody) is less difficult and there are systems in place to allow you to transfer to a UC school while retaining most credits (similar systems allow transferring from a Community College to a Cal State school). I might have recommended trying to figure out a way for Tyler to establish residency first to lower his tuition. As it is, he’s going to need to do spectacularly well on his SATs!
;–)

Sorry.  I didn't know any of this or else I may have added more detail to go along with it.  

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22 minutes ago, mfa607 said:

Wow! Thank you for spoiling us! Great chapter!

You're welcome.  Though, my frequent posting is more for my own benefit than the readers.  The sooner this is done, the sooner I can finally rest. 😆

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12 minutes ago, Jdonley75 said:

The sooner this is done, the sooner I can finally rest. 😆

At least you’ll be able to rest, there’s no rest for the wicked (like me)!
;–)

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I've got a  knot on my throught. 

Now, i gues that David should be takem seriously in consIderation and be told before too long  on Tyler's plans, just in case he forgets David was there when he most needed it.

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1 hour ago, Jdonley75 said:

Sorry.  I didn't know any of this or else I may have added more detail to go along with it.  

Don't worry, i guess there's still time. .

Great chapter by the way.

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9 minutes ago, Tonyr said:

I've got a  knot on my throught. 

Now, i gues that David should be takem seriously in consIderation and be told before too long  on Tyler's plans, just in case he forgets David was there when he most needed it.

Pretty sure Tyler isn't going to leave David out.

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2 hours ago, Jdonley75 said:

You're welcome.  Though, my frequent posting is more for my own benefit than the readers.  The sooner this is done, the sooner I can finally rest. 😆

I understand your need for rest...but thanks to you, I (and I suspect all readers) have become very attached to these characters and this story.  I could see another volume dedicated to David as he heads into his golden years, hint, hint!)...

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32 minutes ago, pvtguy said:

I understand your need for rest...but thanks to you, I (and I suspect all readers) have become very attached to these characters and this story.  I could see another volume dedicated to David as he heads into his golden years, hint, hint!)...

Oh?  You want more about David?

Well, he's just been outmaneuvered by his son and his other boys so I'm betting he probably feels a little older now.  Maybe he'll end up turning it all over to Kyle and Jacob and ride off into the sunset or something? 

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It’s nice to see Andy and Brian....planning their wedding and moving forward in their lives.  Just as if something happened to Brian, Tanner or Blake and they needed to heal, Andy’s growth is the family’s growth and it’s reflected in the boys’ maturity;  It seems he’s found the right path to recovery.  Seeing the team and Stephanie gently strong arm David into having the wedding at the orchard was way cute, lol.  

Tyler as best man, fits.

Troy, Jacob and Kyle know their places in Andy and Brian’s hearts and lives so they don’t need to be best man.  Though this is not why Andy did it, asking Tyler to be his best man is the kind of affirmation Tyler needs to know how valued he is.  actions get through to him, not words.
Tyler’s future looks bright, I’m sure he doesn’t trust it yet, lol.

 

 

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9 minutes ago, FanLit said:

It’s nice to see Andy and Brian....planning their wedding and moving forward in their lives.  Just as if something happened to Brian, Tanner or Blake and they needed to heal, Andy’s growth is the family’s growth and it’s reflected in the boys’ maturity;  It seems he’s found the right path to recovery.

Their lives are starting to truly settle now.  Once the wedding is done, they can just be parents and not have to worry about the drama that they had to go through to get to where they are.

10 minutes ago, FanLit said:

Seeing the team and Stephanie gently strong arm David into having the wedding at the orchard was way cute, lol.

It may have been cute, but there will be consequences of a sort. (good? Bad? Indifferent?  Who can say)

11 minutes ago, FanLit said:

Tyler as best man, fits.

Troy, Jacob and Kyle know their places in Andy and Brian’s hearts and lives so they don’t need to be best man.  Though this is not why Andy did it, asking Tyler to be his best man is the kind of affirmation Tyler needs to know how valued he is.  actions get through to him, not words.
Tyler’s future looks bright, I’m sure he doesn’t trust it yet, lol.

I thought so too.  And the boys don't need to use fancy titles or roles in each others' lives to know their place with each other.  I have to admit, they are an amazing bunch of men and it''s doubtful I will ever be able to repeat this creation no matter how I try.

Tyler might still need a little more affirmation, but his life is about to change in a lot of ways.  But you are right in that actions mean a lot more to him than words ever will.

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The slow build to Andy and Brian’s wedding is a wonderful thing and it leaves me feeling all warm and tingly. They’ve come such a long way. My anticipation to experience that consummate moment at the altar is indescribable.

I’m continually amazed that Tyler is unaware of the effect he’s had on this group of men he calls friends and who feel like family, but that’s just how Tyler is. He’s always focused on others, even when his own life is in a state of flux. It goes to show you how much he’s grown since chapter one and yet he’s managed to hold on to his empathy, his unfettered companionship. He may have been an only child, and I may have been one too, but he behaves like what I imagine a good brother would.

Sean, an education, and a second home he’ll always have an invitation to return to are his just rewards for simply being himself. He deserves them all and more. 

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6 minutes ago, Jdonley75 said:

It may have been cute, but there will be consequences of a sort. (good? Bad? Indifferent?  Who can say)

Well....you can, :gikkle:

Quote

I thought so too.  And the boys don't need to use fancy titles or roles in each others' lives to know their place with each other.  I have to admit, they are an amazing bunch of men and it''s doubtful I will ever be able to repeat this creation no matter how I try.

The team will always have a special place in my literary heart.

 ❤️ :heart:

 

Edited by FanLit
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1 hour ago, Danners said:

Sean, an education, and a second home he’ll always have an invitation to return to are his just rewards for simply being himself. He deserves them all and more. 

Apparently the big showy christmas party is a mandatory event. But will Tyler & Sean be able to escape LA to celebrate Thanksgiving in Wellington with their other family? Will they build or buy a second home there?

I can see Sean’s first production getting a (minor) Premiere in Kellington. Maybe they could start an indie film festival (like Sundance) and get some of the LA snobs to travel to a nice small town. OrchardFest? KIFF (Kellington International Film Festival)?
;–)

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9 minutes ago, droughtquake said:

Apparently the big showy christmas party is a mandatory event. But will Tyler & Sean be able to escape LA to celebrate Thanksgiving in Wellington with their other family? Will they build or buy a second home there?

I can see Sean’s first production getting a (minor) Premiere in Kellington. Maybe they could start an indie film festival (like Sundance) and get some of the LA snobs to travel to a nice small town. OrchardFest? KIFF (Kellington International Film Festival)?
;–)

Why not a documentary about the orchard? Tell the story of David, his family, and all he’s done for the community. Have the premiere in Kellington around harvest time and offer a VIP tour of the orchard with complementary apple picking. That way they can drum up a little more tourism and increase Kellington community pride — you know, get more locals involved. 

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2 hours ago, Danners said:

The slow build to Andy and Brian’s wedding is a wonderful thing and it leaves me feeling all warm and tingly. They’ve come such a long way. My anticipation to experience that consummate moment at the altar is indescribable.

I’m continually amazed that Tyler is unaware of the effect he’s had on this group of men he calls friends and who feel like family, but that’s just how Tyler is. He’s always focused on others, even when his own life is in a state of flux. It goes to show you how much he’s grown since chapter one and yet he’s managed to hold on to his empathy, his unfettered companionship. He may have been an only child, and I may have been one too, but he behaves like what I imagine a good brother would.

Sean, an education, and a second home he’ll always have an invitation to return to are his just rewards for simply being himself. He deserves them all and more. 

It's not going to be very slow since there's only 2 chapters left.

It's not that Tyler is completely unaware.  And, in truth, he's starting to come around to the fact that he matters.

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2 hours ago, FanLit said:

Well....you can, :gikkle:

Well, yes... I could... ;) 

2 hours ago, FanLit said:

The team will always have a special place in my literary heart.

 ❤️ :heart:

I think you and more than a few others will carry that feeling for a long time.  And that makes me truly feel blessed.

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