Now That You're Here - The College Years


Chapter 3




By the time the plane touched down in Arizona, Zander was exhausted. He was beginning to realize that having a nine year old could be exhausting. Not that she was bad or acting up in any way. She just had a lot of questions, or needed help with everything. He was used to teenagers who could do everything on their own. When they finally recovered their luggage, and after one final trip to the bathroom, the three of them were on their way home. Justin seemed to sense Zan’s growing agitation and started fielding most of Sofia’s questions so that he could focus on driving. Zan appreciated it because as he drove the familiar path to the house, all he could think about was feeling Chris’s arms around him. It had been a very long and eventful trip and Zan had missed his partner more than he ever had before. He knew forcing Chris to stay home was the right thing to do, but that didn’t change the fact that Zan had needed him and he wasn’t there. In a perfect world, the two of them would never have to be apart.

As he pulled into the driveway, he couldn’t help but chuckle. Chris was peeking out the window like a little kid. Zan had asked him to wait inside instead of greeting him at the car like he usually did. He didn’t want to overwhelm Sofia. He knew it was hard for Chris, but he would do it to make their new little charge comfortable.

“Is this where we live?” Sofia asked softly from the back seat.

“This is it, Sofia,” Zan replied. “What do you think?”

“Hmmm.” Sofia stared at the house and thought for a moment before replying. “It’s bigger than the places Mommy and I used to live in and smaller than the place Daddy lived in. I think it’s perfect,” she decided.

“Well I’m glad you approve,” Zan laughed at the nine year old’s mind. “Jus, you want to help her out of the car? I’ll start grabbing some of the bags.”

“Zan, leave the bags for now. I know you can’t wait to get inside. Let’s get Sofia and introduce her to Chris. I’ll unload the car in a bit,” Justin replied with a smile. He knew how bad Zan wanted to get inside and see Chris. He’d be the same way if Brian was inside instead of three hours away at school. He was starting to rethink his plan of skipping classes for the rest of the week. Zan’s words pulled him out of his thoughts.

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah, let’s go.”

They got out of the car and went inside. Chris was sitting in the living room pretending to watch TV. Zan laughed. “Hey babe, we’re home.”

“Oh hey, how was your flight?” Chris asked innocently as he stood to greet them. He glanced down at the beautiful little girl by Zan’s side and he instantly fell in love. “Hi there, you must be Sofia.”

“Uh huh,” Sofia replied softly.

“My name is Chris. It’s very nice to meet you.” Chris squatted down to Sofia’s level and held out his hand. He smiled when Sofia took his hand and shook it. “Is it true that you’re going to be living here now?”

“Uh huh.”

“And that your favorite color is purple?”

“Uh huh.”

“And that you love Disney Princesses?”

“How did you know all of that?” she asked in awe.

“A little birdie told me. And it’s a good thing, too because there’s a bedroom upstairs that I think you’re going to love. Do you want to me to take you up and show it to you?”

Sofia looked up at Zan for permission. When he nodded his head, she looked back at Chris and smiled. “Okay.”

Taking Sofia’s hand, Chris stood up, placed a quick kiss on Zan’s lips and then led Sofia away to go check out her new room. Zan watched them with a smile.

“I think she’s going to adjust here just fine,” Justin said.

“Yeah, me too.” Zan agreed with a sigh of relief. He knew that Chris was great with children, but he wasn’t sure if all the changes in the last few days were going to be too much for the little girl. Katherine had said that Sofia was quiet and slightly withdrawn, but she hadn’t shown any signs of being either since they had met. Maybe his parents and their big, sterile house is what made her so quiet. That and adjusting to losing her mother. Zan was still going to seek therapy for her, but it didn’t really seem like she was going to have trouble adjusting to her new life.

Chris marveled at the small hand in his. He had always wanted children when he was younger, and despite having Brian move in with them at fourteen, having a small child was going to be completely different. He couldn’t wait. When they reached the door, Chris stopped and squatted back down to Sofia’s level.

“Okay, this is your room. If there’s anything you don’t like, just tell me and we’ll fix it, okay?”

“Okay,” Sofia said.

Chris opened the door and ushered Sofia inside. Once they were in the center of the room, Sofia gaped as she spun in slow circles, trying to take everything in. Chris had painted the whole room in a light purple, with one wall done in a deeper shade. The bed was a canopy set up in a purple Disney Princess theme with sheer draping all around, and he had hung a Princess border around the room, half the way up the wall where she could really see it.. The dresser and desk were white, which matched the room perfectly. He also picked up a toy box that, aside from a few Barbie’s that an employee at Toys R Us suggested, was empty. He figured that they would take her shopping to fill it up once she was settled. After a few minutes where Sofia still hadn’t said anything, Chris broke the silence.

“So what do you think? Do you like it?”

Sofia looked at Chris, her eyes damp with tears and smiled. “I love it!” she exclaimed as she threw herself at Chris, hugging him tightly.

Chris hugged her back, his own eyes tearing slightly. “I’m glad you like it. I want you to feel comfortable here. This is your house now, and this is your room, okay?”

Sofia just nodded as she continued to hug Chris. Eventually Zan and Justin appeared in the doorway, both of them impressed with what they saw.
“Wow babe, you did a great job in here,” Zan said as he looked around the room.

“Sofia, what do you think of your room?” Justin asked as he walked over to where she stood. She had let go of Chris, but was standing right next to him beaming.

“I love it! It’s so pretty!”

“Yes, it’s very pretty. Now why don’t you come with me and we’ll go take a walk around? I’ll show you where the rest of us sleep and then we’ll go see the yard, okay?” Justin said, knowing that Chris and Zan were going to want a few minutes alone.

“Okay,” Sofia agreed, taking the hand Justin had offered. The two of them disappeared quickly.

As soon as they were alone, Chris took Zan in his arms and kissed him deeply. It had been a long week and he had missed his partner terribly. Knowing that Zander was going through hell and needed him only made their separation harder. They remained locked in an embrace for several minutes, before Chris finally pulled back slightly and looked Zan deep in the eyes. “Now that that’s out of the way, how’re you doing?”

“So much better now that I’m back here with you,” Zander replied honestly. Suddenly all of his agitation and anger eased and he finally felt like he could breathe again. “I don’t think I’ve ever missed you as much as I did the last few days. But before we get into all of that, how was the signing? Did it go well?”

“It was great. There were actually lines out the door and down the sidewalk. I was amazed. Thank you so much for insisting that I stay here. I hated being away from you, but I’m glad I was here to experience that. But that’s enough about me. How are you really doing?”

“Okay, I guess. I was serious when I said I was better now that I’m back here with you. When we were in the air heading towards home, I noticed the tension that I’ve been fighting start easing, and when I pulled into the driveway…it’s just better now. I’m exhausted though. It’s so hard to sleep when you’re not beside me. All I want to do is have a nice, quiet night with my family and go to bed early. I have so much to do tomorrow, but I refuse to think about it tonight.”

Chris smiled and kissed Zan quickly. “Sounds good to me, but there is one thing that you need to know before we begin that nice, quiet night. I didn’t tell you about it while you were gone because I didn’t want to add to your worries.”

“Oh God, please tell me it’s not bad news. I don’t think I can handle any bad news today,” Zan groaned.

“It’s not bad news, I promise,” Chris chuckled. “Steve’s going to be staying here with us for awhile.”

“Steve? Staying here? Why? Isn’t he in New Jersey?”

“No, he left Princeton and came home. Unfortunately his father didn’t agree with his decision and kicked him out. I told him he could stay here. You don’t mind, do you?”

“No, of course not. He’s family. I’m just surprised. I know his father can be a hard ass, but I never would’ve thought he’d kick his own son out. I’m sure he’ll come around in a day or two,” Zan said.

“That’s what I thought at first, but now I don’t think it’s going to be that easy. Ted called me last night. He’s really, really angry. He asked me not to let Steve stay here and when I told him that I refused to leave him with nowhere to go, he got pissed. He said that Steve will never learn if we all cater to him. He won’t listen to reason and said that as long as Steve refuses to go to college, he doesn’t have a home,” Chris explained.

“Wow, that’s crazy. What did Steve say about that?”

“I haven’t told him yet. He spent the night at Arizona State making up with Brian. He went by the house this morning hoping to talk to his father, but he’d already left for work and was unreachable by phone. He had such hopes of working things out; I didn’t want to ruin that. I guess I need to tell him though, huh?”

“Yeah, you do. How about if we get Sofia settled and into bed, then we can sit him down and talk to him together. It’s almost 8:00 now and with the time difference, it’s way past her bedtime.”

“She’s got to be exhausted. I wasn’t sure what nine year old girls ate, so I stocked up on macaroni and cheese, hot dogs, chicken nuggets, and cookies. I figured we could do real shopping tomorrow. Oddly enough I’m ahead of schedule on my writing so I can take tomorrow off and help Sofia get settled,” Chris offered. “Oh, and when I talked to Steve, I told him about your situation at the store. He’s willing to help out with whatever you need while we get into a routine with Sofia.”

“That’s great. I spoke to Stacy last night. She’s really freaking out about the wedding and the upcoming move, but doesn’t want to leave me stuck. If Steve can step in and fill her place temporarily, he’d be saving my life. I have no idea how I’m going to do all of this. Babe, Sofia’s only nine. This is going to be so different compared to Brian and Justin.”

“Yes it is, but it’s going to be great. We’ll find a way to make it work.”

Chris’s reassurance made Zander feel better. The next few weeks while everyone got settled in their new situation were going to be tough, but having Chris at his side would make all the difference. And having Steve around was going to be a huge help, but before Zan accepted his help, he was going to try talking the young man into going back to school. The one thing his father had taught him while growing up is how important an education was to a person’s future. Steve was one of the smartest people Zan knew. He hated seeing him floundering when school was such an obvious choice. After their talk, if Steve still insisted on passing on school, Zan would honor his wishes and stand by him no matter what. He just had to give talking to him a try first.

“We better go check on Sophia and see if she wants something to eat before bed. There’s still plenty to do tonight and all I can think about is getting you alone and naked as soon as possible.”

“That sounds heavenly,” Zan replied before reaching up and kissing Chris deeply. Unfortunately he couldn’t linger as much as he wanted to. “Alright, let’s go be responsible,” he sighed.

Chris chuckled. “You make that sound like a bad thing.”

“It is when all I can think about is getting you inside me.”

“Oh God, don’t say things like that,” Chris groaned. “Come on, Blondie. Let’s go.”

The two of them ignored their libidos and went to find the new edition to their family. Zander figured they might as well get used to it. Having two teenagers in the house caused a slight drop in their sexual escapades. He could only imagine what a nine year old was going to do.



By the time Brian got home on Thursday night, he was exhausted and desperate to see his blond. It had been a long week of tossing and turning and barely making it through his classes while he missed his boyfriend terribly. On top of that, his history professor had held a special study group on Thursday afternoon to help anyone who was having trouble with the class before mid-terms. Since history was never Brian’s subject, he begrudgingly agreed to attend, which put him on the long road home much later than he originally planned. It was after ten before he finally pulled into the driveway. Grabbing his bag off the passenger seat, he made his way up the sidewalk and towards the front door. As he reached for the knob, the door flung open and his arms were quickly filled with his favorite person.

“Thank God you’re here. I’ve missed you so much!” Justin exclaimed as he hugged Brian tight. “I didn’t think you’d ever get here.”

“I was beginning to wonder myself. Now give me a kiss,” Brian said right before he took Justin’s mouth in a heated kiss.

Justin kissed him back with so much passion, he briefly wondered if the two of them were going to have sex right on the doorstep. The sound of someone clearing their throat caused them to pull away from each other sheepishly.

“Please excuse the interruption, but I really don’t think the neighbors want to see your personal greeting. And I know for a fact that I don’t,” Chris laughed. “Now get inside before you two get arrested.”

“Sorry about that.” Brian had the decency to look embarrassed.

“No problem. I get it. But no more comments from you two when Zan and I are happy to see each other after one of us has been away.”

“I’ll never tease you two again,” Brian promised. When they got inside, Justin took Brian’s bag and dropped it by the basement stairs. He knew that once they went down to their new room, they wouldn’t be seen again. The polite thing to do was to sit with the family for awhile before rushing off to have a little bit of alone time. Brian sat and listened to the three of them talk about Sophia's first full day in her new home. He'd wished he'd gotten home earlier so he could’ve met her, but the little girl was already in bed. He'd just have to wait until the morning to meet the newest addition of the family.

It was after 11 o'clock when Steve strolled through the door. It was odd for Brian to see his friend come through the door now that he lived there. Ever since they had met, Steve was like part of this family but knowing that he now officially lived there seemed to make it different somehow. It was just one more change that Brian was going to have to get used to.

By the time Brian and Justin made it downstairs, it was one in the morning. It had been a long day for Brian, who had early morning classes, and he was exhausted. Of course, seeing the new room that had been set up for them seemed to give him a second wind.

“Wow, you guys have been busy,” Brian said as he took in his surroundings.

“What do you think?"

“It looks amazing. I can't believe this is the basement."

"I know, right? Chris told me you did a lot of the prep work," Justin replied.

"Yeah, we started it as soon as you guys left last weekend, but once we heard about Sophia we refocused our energy on her room. I never imagined that it would be finished by the time I got home. You guys must've worked really hard."

"Well Steve was a big help, too. It's been kind of cool having him around. Are you all right with him staying here?"

"Of course I am. He's my best friend and it sucks that his father's being such an asshole. You know, sometimes it surprises me how many people can easily turned their back on their own family. I’d do anything for mine. Now why don't you show me the bed up close and personal? It's been too long since I've had you under me."

"Always the charmer," Justin laughed as he began to strip off his clothes.

"It's what you love most about me," Brian replied. Nothing more was said between the two of them as they made up for lost time.



The following weeks flew by rather quickly as everyone in the Taylor/Kinney/Morgan household adjusted to the newest additions. Steve was a huge help down at the store while Zander got Sophia enrolled in school and helped her settle in. He also found a therapist who had an opening in her calendar and saw Sophia almost immediately. Although she seemed to be fitting in nicely there were a lot of deep-rooted scars that Carol, the therapist, was struggling to uncover. Apparently poor Sophia saw much more of her mother's lifestyle than any child should, leaving her with insecurities, irrational fears and frequent nightmares. Everyone worked hard to reassure her as often as possible.

Brian and Justin spent almost every weekend at home, helping out with Sophia and trying to cheer up Steve. His father's abandonment was weighing heavily on him, making it hard for him to decide what his next move should be. Justin was almost as worried about Steve as Brian was, but he was more worried about Matt. It had been weeks since Matt admitted that something was bothering him, yet he still refused to share his troubles with his friend. Thanksgiving was less than two weeks away, and Justin couldn’t wait until he saw his friend face to face again. He was hoping to have the opportunity to get Matt to open up to him then. During a rare Saturday night when Justin was home alone, he reached for the phone to call his friend yet again. Matt answered on the second ring.

"Hey Jus, what's going on?" Matt asked.

"Not too much. I actually have the house to myself for once."

"How the hell did that happen?" Matt chuckled.

"Well Chris and Zan took Sophia to see a movie, and Brian and Steve went to shoot some pool. I didn't feel like going," Justin explained.

"I don't blame you. I would've stayed home alone, too. Especially with all those people in that house. I imagine peace and quiet doesn't happen often."

"I don't even know what peace and quiet is anymore," Justin laughed. "So what's going on with you? How's school going?"

"It's going. I survived midterms and maintained my 4.0, so I'm happy."

"Cool. So the holiday’s coming up. You're going to be coming home, right?”

“Yeah, I’ll be there,” Matt assured his friend. “My parents would kill me if I tried to bail on the holiday. Am I to assume that there will still be a get together at your place Thanksgiving night?”

“Business as usual.”

“Awesome. I’m looking forward to meeting Sophia.”

“She’s great,” Justin told him right before a knock on Matt’s door interrupted him. He waited while his friend answered it.

“Um…Jus…I have to go. A guy from one of my classes is…um…here. He…uh…wants to borrow my notes. I’ll call you later.”

And before Justin had a chance to respond, the line went dead. “Well that was weird,” he said to himself, wondering why Matt sounded so…off by someone borrowing his notes. Well, it didn’t matter. Matt was going to be home in less than two weeks. With any luck, once they were face to face, Justin would finally find out what’s bothering his friend.



Matt turned off his phone and looked at the guy standing in his doorway.

“David! Um…what are you doing here?”

“I had to drop something off to a friend so I thought I’d stop by and say hello. Aren’t you going to invite me in?”

Matt grabbed David by the arm and dragged him inside, slamming the door behind him. “You can’t just come by here unannounced. What if somebody sees you?”

“Dude, relax. I go to school here, remember? Just because I don’t live on campus, doesn’t mean that I can’t be in the dorms. I’m allowed to visit my friends. Your RA and I dated freshman year. We stayed friends.” David saw Matt cringe and started to feel defensive. “I didn’t realize you were homophobic.”

“I’m not. Some of my best friends are gay.” At David’s skeptical look, Matt continued. “No really, some of my best friends are gay.”

“Oh, so you just find kissing guys repulsive.”

“Well…no…I just…”

“So then it was just kissing me that you found repulsive.”

“No! Damn it, David!”

“Hey, don’t get snippy with me. I’m just trying to figure out what’s going on. You were a willing participant that night at my house when you had your tongue down my throat. Yet in the last five weeks, you’ve ignored the notes I slipped under your door and avoided me every time you see me on campus.”

“Doesn’t that tell you something? Look, I don’t know what happened that night. It was a party, I was drunk…I wasn’t thinking straight.”

“No, you definitely weren’t thinking straight. But drunk? You weren’t drunk. I was with you most of the night. You had two beers, maybe three,” David pointed out.

“Why are you doing this? If I’ve been ignoring you for the last five weeks, why haven’t you given up and moved on by now? I’m sure you don’t have any trouble finding men to jump in your bed.”

“I’ll take that as a compliment, thank you,” David smiled. “Truthfully, I don’t know why I can’t just put that night behind me. I guess it's because I’ve never connected with anybody the way I did with you. Call me crazy, but I don't want to let a connection like that slip through my fingers."

"Look David, maybe we did have a connection but it's not what you think. I'm not gay," Matt insisted. "And even if I was, there's nothing I can do about it. I can’t be gay. I come from a long line of cops. I'm going to be a cop. Gay men don't become cops."


"I think you'd better leave," Matt demanded as he walked over and opened the door.

David stood there for a moment, looking as if he was going to argue. In the end he walked out the door, but turned around to address Matt before leaving. "Alright, I'll go. But do me a favor? Call me if you need anything, even if it’s just someone to talk to? In my experience, straight men don't go around kissing other guys. I can help you if you let me, no strings attached. I put my phone number in your cell phone at the party. You have it if you need it."

Matt watched David as he walked away, and then closed the door behind him. His heart was beating out of his chest as he lay down on his bed and thought about what David had said. If he was honest with himself, he had known that he had an attraction to men since middle school, yet there was nothing he could do about it. What he had told David was the truth. He came from a long line of cops. There was no way he could be gay. His future was already set in stone. He’d graduate from college with a bachelors in criminal justice, enroll in the police academy after that, and become a cop just like all the other men in his family. Once he secured that, he'd find a nice girl and settle down, and carry on the family name just like all the other men in his family. He had nothing against gay people, but there was no way he could be one of them. Not if he wanted to continue to be a part of his family.

He rolled over and grabbed his phone and started searching his contact list. Sure enough, David's number was there. He hadn't noticed it before, but then again most people don't scroll through their contacts unless they're looking for something. He had his friends and family on speed dial. He went through the motions to delete the number, but stopped himself before he could confirm deletion. For some reason he couldn't bring himself to delete David from his phone. Instead he put the phone on his nightstand and rolled over, forcing all thoughts from his mind. He was too tired to think anymore, just too tired. It wasn't long before he fell into a restless sleep.



Zander was in the kitchen washing dishes when Chris came up from behind and wrapped his arms around him. He allowed himself to be held, tilting his head to the side to receive a few soft kisses. He loved when Chris was in a playful mood. "Taking a break from writing?"

"Actually I am. I was at my desk typing away when I thought…I haven't had my hands on Zander in hours. I figured I'd remedy that."

"Well, Sophia won't be home for another hour, why don't we go to the bedroom and you can have your hands on more of me?"

"I was hoping you'd say that."

Before they could get out of the kitchen, the phone rang. Zander thought about ignoring it, but now that they had Sophia, he didn't want to be unreachable. "Hang on a minute, babe, let me get that."

"I'll get it," Chris sighed as he reached for the phone. "Hello?"

Zander went back to the few dishes that were left, while Chris took the call. He couldn’t tell who was on the phone, but Chris sounded a little strange. He finished up with the dishes and then wiped down the counter, as he waited patiently to find out who Chris was talking to. Finally his partner hung up the phone and looked at him warily.

“That was Ed. Ryan is finally being released from the facility. He wants to meet with us. Ed said that he still feels terrible about what he did and wants the opportunity to apologize to us in person. He also wants to stay with Ed for awhile and is afraid of running into one of us out in public. He figured if that happened, it would be easier on everyone if we’ve already cleared the air.”

Zander looked at Chris, trying to read his reaction to the news before sharing his own. He’d done a lot of thinking over the past few months and one of his realizations was that Ryan was a severely troubled man due to the horrible past he was forced to endure. He didn’t hold any ill will towards him and was glad that he was getting the help he needed. He’d even contemplated reaching out to him once or twice, but decided to leave things as they were. He had no issue with a get together once he was out.

“I’m okay with it if you are,” Zan finally said.

“Really? Are you sure? We don’t have to if we don’t want to. We don’t owe him anything,” Chris replied.

“I know we don’t owe him, but I think we should do it. Ever since we learned all that Ryan has been through, I’ve been feeling really bad for him. With his past being what it is, it’s no wonder he tried so hard to hang onto you. And let’s face it; you gave him the green light in the first place. He just had a hard time letting go.”

“I know. God, I’m still so sorry about that, Babe. You know that, right? And I feel so bad that it never seems to go away; that every time we try to put the past behind us, it just gets thrown back in our faces. I’d do anything if I could go back…”

“Shhh,” Zan interrupted him. “I know, Chris. I wasn’t angling for yet another apology. I was just saying that I can somewhat understand where he was coming from. It doesn’t make what he did okay, but he got the help he needed and wants to try and make things right. I think we should let him.”

Chris took Zan in his arms. “I don’t know what I ever did to get lucky enough for you to love me, but I promise I will do whatever it takes to make sure you never stop.”

“All you have to do is be you and I will always love you. Now let’s get to the bedroom before our quiet time runs out,” Zan said as he pulled Chris out of the kitchen.

“Sounds good to me.”



Justin was sitting at the small kitchen table studying when Brian walked in, carrying three bags of groceries. He jumped up quickly and went over to help, taking one of the bags from Brian’s arms. “Is this it?”

“Yeah, I didn’t want to get too much. We only have five more days before we go home for Thanksgiving. I figured we can stop at the store again on our way home the following Sunday.”

“Good idea. Thanks for going without me. I really need to do a lot of studying for Monday’s exam. History is the only class that can keep me from maintaining my 4.0 and I don’t want to screw it up.”

“No problem, but just remember what you offered me if I went alone,” Brian drawled.

“I know, I know. I promise you will get your blow job first thing in the morning,” Justin laughed. “I’m still not sure why you enjoy morning blow jobs so much.”

“I still don’t know why you don’t? What better way to start your day?”

“I never said I didn’t enjoy them, I just said that I prefer them at the end of a long day, not at the beginning of one,” Justin explained as he started putting the food away. “Oh, before I forget, Dane called me earlier. He said that he tried calling you but that your phone went right to voicemail.”

“Yeah, I forgot to charge it last night. Is everything alright?”

“As far as I know. He said he was just calling to say hello.”

“Okay, then I’ll just call him tomorrow. All I want to do now is take a hot shower and veg out in front of the TV,” Brian said.

“That sounds good. I’m going to put in another hour of studying and then I’ll join you.”


Justin went back to the table and quickly became engrossed in his book. So engrossed that the sound of his ringing phone scared the shit out of him. Glancing at the screen, he smiled when he saw Zac’s phone number. Zac had been going crazy trying to plan a surprise visit to Pittsburgh behind Jason’s back and had been picking Justin’s brain on what to do while they were there.

“Hey, what have you come up with now?” Justin asked as he answered the phone.

“Jus, it’s…uh…Jason,” Zac said softly.

“Jason? What’s wrong? What happened?” Justin was suddenly struck with fear.

“He…he was attacked on campus…he…uh…we’re at the hospital. Can you…”

“I’ll be there in ten minutes.”

Justin didn’t wait for a reply. Instead he jumped up and rushed to the living room where Brian was sitting in front of the TV. “Babe, Jason was attacked on campus. We have to get to the hospital.”

“What? Shit…Grab the keys and go to the jeep. I’ll throw on clothes and be there in two minutes.”

Justin numbly did as he was told. As promised, Brian appeared at the jeep minutes later. He climbed in and started the jeep before turning in his seat and pulling Justin to him. “Just take a deep breath and relax Babe. I’m sure he’s going to be fine.”

Justin hugged him back. “I hope so, Brian. I really hope so,” he whispered as he struggled to hold back his tears. He’d been trying to tell himself that ever since Zac had uttered those horrifying words, but he couldn’t make himself believe it. Not after hearing the devastation in Zac’s voice. There was no mistaking the fear and sadness he heard in the short conversation. He knew that whatever happened to his childhood friend was bad. Very bad. He just kept praying to God that whatever it was, it wasn’t life threatening. He didn’t know what he’d do if…he couldn’t even finish the thought. Jason was going to be alright. He just had to be.

End of part 3

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