Weekends were always slow at the Appleton Bakery. With fewer people stopping by to get croissants, bagels or some other pastry for breakfast on their way to work, Jeremy had more time for other things. These usually included trying out new recipes, redecorating the bakery or tending to the flowers planted outside. More and more often, these activities included Alex as well. When not working at the car wash, the older guy was usually found at his boyfriend’s bakery, helping him out or just hanging out, enjoying his company.
That Saturday, after Jeremy served the last customer and closed for the day, he cleaned the place and went up to his little apartment above the bakery. As he approached the living room where Alex was waiting for him, he could hear the TV. More specifically, he could hear what sounded very much like a sports commentator.
Alex was deep in his own world, not even hearing when Jeremy entered the room. He only noticed the guy when he sat next to him on the sofa, placing a gentle hand on his arm. In his other hand, the baker held a small plate with muffins.
“Oh, hey babe. All done for today?” Alex asked, turning to give his boyfriend a peck on the lips. “Oooh, those look delicious!”
“...yeah,” Jeremy frowned. “Uh, what’s that?” he pointed at the notebook in Alex’s hands. It seemed as he was writing something down, while the guy on the TV kept going on about transfers, cups and other sports terminology Jeremy had little knowledge of or interest in.
“Oh! It’s not what you think,” Alex suddenly laughed, kissing Jeremy again. He found the concerned look on the other guy’s face so endearing. “Remember how I told you Carly was showing me some new techniques? Well, this is one of them. I make a list of all the matches and the bets I would’ve made. Then I take a look at the results and track how much money I would’ve lost if I’d actually bet on them.”
“Well, in this case,” Alex stopped to add up the amounts, “I’d be thirty-two hundred in the red.”
“Ouch. That’s a lot of money.”
“Tell me about it.”
“So, is this working for you? I mean, is it not tempting to sit and watch the games? It’s just that…”
“You’re worried,” Alex finished his sentence. “I know, babe, but you don’t have to be, I promise. And yeah, before she suggested this to me, Carly said this method wouldn’t work for everyone, but it’s actually been really helpful for me. But the biggest help was just being able to talk to her about everything… And to you. Before, I used to feel like I was on my own and I just couldn’t deal with my problems. It was so overwhelming. Now that I know I have people to help me, people I can talk to, I feel like I can do anything.”
“If anyone can, it’s you,” Jeremy smiled warmly.
“Me? I’m not sure what I did to deserve that optimism,” Alex chuckled. “Besides, you’re the Superman in this relationship.”
“Okaaay, I have no idea where this is going,” the baker shrugged, grinning.
“I mean, look at you. You have your own business, your own apartment. You survived a freaking fire and having this mess of a boyfriend. Plus, you can bake. I feel like I should give you a medal!”
“You are such a flatterer.”
“It’s not flattery if it’s true.”
“Ok, but you’ve done pretty well too. More than that - you’re even going back to college!”
“Yeah… It’s not exactly Paris, but I guess that ship has sailed,” Alex said, taking Jeremy’s hand and giving it a squeeze. In just a few months, he would be starting his final semester at the local community college. It was a bittersweet prospect, but also somewhat exciting at the same time. “You know what, I’m actually looking forward to it. Yeah, if I hadn’t been a dumbass, I could’ve had an awesome semester in France, but I’m still kinda excited about going back, you know? I just wanna get my degree and try and find a job in my line of work. I want to have what you have - being able to do something I love.”
“You’re gonna get it, I’m sure,” Jeremy said confidently, noticing Alex fidgeting with his hands.
“Thanks, babe, I really hope so.”
“Are you nervous about going back to college?”
“Nah… Well, yeah, a little bit,” Alex said. “To be honest, I’m more nervous about tomorrow.”
“Oh, right,” Jeremy nodded. “So, you really want to go through that?”
“Yeah, I think I should. I just really want to get it over with, and I think it’ll be good both for me and him to talk it out.”
After the fire that broke out in Jeremy’s bakery the previous month, Brandon had attempted to contact him and Alex several times, apparently feeling guilty for inadvertently outing Jeremy to his mother. He offered to pay for all the damages, but other than Jeremy telling him he didn’t want his help, all of Brandon’s calls went unanswered and he soon stopped trying altogether.
That was until a few days ago, when Alex decided to contact him, asking the guy to meet him. Although clearly surprised, Brandon agreed.
“Are you sure you don’t want me to go with you?” Jeremy asked.
“Yeah, it’s ok, I can handle him,” Alex confirmed. As much as he appreciated Jeremy’s support, it was something he needed to do on his own. Even though he still wasn’t sure whether Brandon was a malicious manipulator or just a scorned lover who had his feelings hurt, he was willing to bet on the latter - if he was still doing bets. Either way, they had to talk things through.
“Well, I better head out. Wish me luck,” Alex walked out to find his boyfriend sitting at the kitchen table, reading something on his phone.
Startled, Jeremy quickly fumbled with the phone and almost dropped it. “Hey! You scared me,” he laughed, quickly recovering. “Good luck!”
With a raised eyebrow, Alex walked over to give him a hug and a kiss before he left. He had done his fair share of sneaking around to know when someone was hiding something, but at that moment, his mind was preoccupied with his meeting with Brandon. He would have to talk to Jeremy later.
“Thanks… I’ll see you later then?”
“Of course,” Jeremy smiled, kissing him again for good luck.
When Alex arrived at the ‘Alaska’ cafe, Brandon was already inside, sitting at a small table for two by the window. Meeting in a public place - on neutral terf - was Alex’s idea. Their last few encounters tended to turn into shouting matches and he wanted to avoid it this time.
“Hey,” he greeted the other guy politely as he walked up to the table.
“Alex, hi,” Brandon got up and smiled. After a moment of hesitation, he simply extended his hand for a handshake. “It’s good to see you. I was surprised you called.”
“Thanks, good to see you too,” Alex nodded as they shook hands. “And yeah, I surprised myself too. So, how’ve you been?”
“Good. Work’s been pretty great lately, and… well, that’s pretty much it. How about you?”
“I’m doing ok. I’m actually going back to college this fall,” Alex smiled with a little pride in his voice.
“For real? That’s great! What made you do that?”
“Well, it’s kinda why I wanted to meet up. I, uh, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately and I didn’t want to leave things between us so messy. I wanted to see if we could talk as friends. You know, without the fighting and screaming.”
“Ok… Um, yeah, I’d like that.”
“You see, I’ve been going to rehab this past month,” Alex started his confession. It only took a minute for words to start pouring out of his mouth as he told Brandon all about his gambling problems and how they affected his education and family. Brandon sat patiently, waiting for Alex to finish his story without interruptions.
“Wow, I… I’m sorry to hear about all this. And I’m sorry I never realized what you were going through. I should’ve asked… I should’ve realized something was going on,” Brandon spoke, regret in his eyes. “But I’m really happy to see you’ve turned things around now.”
“Thanks. And don’t apologize, my gambling problems were definitely not your fault,” Alex chuckled softly. “You know, I know things got messed up between us and I blamed you for all of it, but I wanted to say I’m sorry too. When we met, I was in debt and I saw a cute, rich guy and thought - well, why not? He’s got more money than he needs, he could help me out. It was selfish of me.”
“So then, we were both a little dumb, huh?” Brandon frowned. “I know that I definitely could’ve handled things better. You know, when I went to the bakery that day, I was just so pissed and I acted like a spoiled brat, but I never meant to out Jeremy to his mother. When I realized what I’d done, I was horrified. I don’t think I’ve told you this, but when I came out back in high school, my parents weren’t crazy about it either. They almost kicked me out of the house, but Dan convinced them not to. The only reason they calmed down was because I promised never to talk about it again. So we went on with our lives, pretending I never came out, and my father had me focus on my studies, and then work. I guess he thought if he buried me in work, I’d forget about being gay. When I met you, I had already started to rebel, but I’d never been in a relationship before then. I didn’t know what I was supposed to do.”
“I’m sorry to hear that,” Alex replied. “Jeez, we really never talked about stuff, did we? I mean, stuff that really matters.”
“No, we didn’t,” Brandon shook his head, cringing. “Seriously, though, I still feel guilty about Jeremy. That’s why I offered to give him money when I heard about the fire. I didn’t know how else to make it up to him.”
“Hey, that’s alright. He and his mom are fine now. Well, at least better than they were. At least they’re talking now.”
“That’s good to hear. And you two?”
“We’re doing great,” Alex smiled.
“I’m glad,” Brandon nodded, looking happy. “Thanks for telling me all this. It means a lot to me that you trusted me with it.”
“And thank you for agreeing to meet me. I’m really glad we got to talk things through… I didn’t want us to be enemies.”
“So then, friends?”
“Yeah, that sounds better,” Alex replied with a smile.
When he entered the bakery later that morning, Alex was in high spirits, happy he was able to patch things up with Brandon and finally have a talk with him like two adults. However, his attention was quickly grabbed by Jeremy’s muffled voice coming from the other room. He was talking on the phone to someone, but Alex couldn’t quite make out what he was saying. Why was he whispering?
Curious and concerned, Alex decided to wait until his boyfriend was done talking, and then he would confront him head on. Whatever Jeremy was hiding, he would get it out of him... one way or another.
“Hey,” he finally entered the room a minute later, looking directly at Jeremy’s azure eyes. “Who were you talking to?”
“Oh, um, just some suppliers for the bakery. Nothing interesting,” Jeremy replied, avoiding his gaze.
“Oh yeah? Then what’s with all the secrecy? Are you smuggling cocaine in flour bags?” Alex teased as he approached his boyfriend, pulling him close so that their bodies were pressed together. “You think I don’t have ways to get information out of you?” he whispered in Jeremy’s ear, his warm lips touching the guy’s sensitive earlobe, his hands circling Jeremy’s hips and squeezing his ass.
The blond guy shuddered, closing his eyes for a moment while Alex licked his neck. “Can’t you… just… be patient?”
“I don’t think so,” Alex whispered again, his hands finding their way inside Jeremy’s pants and grabbing his butt once again.
“I’m trying to surprise you, so… I can’t tell you anything,” Jeremy replied, his breath hitched in his throat.
“Well then, why don’t we take this to the bedroom, so you can make me forget about whatever you’re hiding from me?” Alex suggested. His little game had made him horny, and now he didn’t even care about finding out the truth anymore. He had played himself.
Jeremy didn’t need any more convincing. He grabbed Alex’s hand and they ran off to the bedroom, giggling as they shut the door behind them.
It was a few hours later that the two guys were in Jeremy’s car, on their way out of Port Alvin.
“Ok, so we’re going to the Yellow Woods?” Alex asked as Jeremy made a turn toward the nearby forest.
“Yes, Sherlock, we are,” the baker rolled his eyes.
Alex glanced around, wondering what Jeremy was planning. Was he taking him to the David Mansion, his father’s old campsite where they first met ten years ago? But if so, why? It wasn’t their anniversary or anything of the sort.
Just as Alex thought, a few minutes later, they had arrived at the old cottage where they spent a week at the summer camp all those years ago. But as Jeremy pulled up and parked his car, Alex could notice someone was already there.
“Hey, there’s another car over there.”
“Yeah, how strange. Why don’t you go and see who it is?” Jeremy suggested with a mysterious smirk.
“Okaaay,” Alex observed him curiously as he got out of the car. “It better be something good,” he warned. Eager to see the surprise, he rushed over to the other vehicle, unaware Jeremy was following him with his phone in his hands.
“Ok, let’s see who... Oh my God!”
As Alex approached the car and looked through the windows, he was stunned to see two friendly faces that he knew very well and hadn’t seen in a long time. His jaw dropped as Richie and Niall burst into laughter.
“You fucking bastards!” Alex joined in the laughter as the guys rushed out to pull him into a rib-crushing hug. “When did you get here?”
“Just today,” Richie replied, squeezing his friend. “Did we surprise you?”
“Fuck yeah, you did!”
“He helped us plan it,” Niall said, pointing behind Alex, who immediately turned around. Jeremy stood behind him, grinning silently.
“You are unbelievable!” Alex let out a laugh, pulling Jeremy over to give him a hug as well. “How could you guys not tell me you were coming?”
“Then it wouldn’t have been a surprise, duh!” Richie said matter-of-factly. “Ahh, but the look on your face was worth it.”
“Got it all on video,” Jeremy said, holding up his phone.
The old friends could barely stop laughing and teasing each other as they started unpacking, preparing for a day in nature.
When he opened the trunk to Jeremy’s car, Alex realized his boyfriend had packed everything they could need for the trip - blankets, dishes, a mini fridge with food and drinks, a small barbecue, a bright orange frisbee and even several old fishing rods that probably haven’t been used in years. They had the whole day ahead of them, just the four of them.
“So, lovebirds, tell us how you got together,” Niall asked later that afternoon as they sat around the barbecue, the smell of grilled meat whetting their appetite. “It only took you ten years.”
“Oh, shut up!” Alex smacked him on the head. “That’s why we’re making up for the lost time now, right?” he glanced at Jeremy, giving him a dirty look that made the guy blush.
“TMI, man!” Richie shouted at him, turning over the meat. “How do you put up with him, Jeremy?”
“Oh, he’s actually a sweetheart, he’s just putting on a show for you guys,” Jeremy smiled, patting Alex on the arm.
“Yeah, somehow I doubt that,” Richie cocked an eyebrow, grinning at the couple.
“So, how long are you guys staying?” Alex asked his friends.
“The whole summer,” Niall replied. “You won’t be getting rid of us anytime soon! You’re gonna get sick of our faces.”
“We’re all already sick of your face,” Richie teased, shoving his friend playfully so that he almost fell off the log he was sitting on.
Under the warm summer sun, Alex laughed his head off as he listened to his friend’s stories about their college life and all they’ve been through since they last saw each other. Sitting there next to his boyfriend, reunited with his two best friends, he couldn’t shake the grin off his face. Life was just about to get good, and with his favorite people by his side, he was ready to make the most of it.
We've come to the end of Alex and Jeremy's journey and I hope it was a satisfying ending. Thank you so much for reading and giving me feedback, I appreciate all of it!