Now That You’re Here: Life Moves On


Chapter 11





Brian was in the kitchen pouring two glasses of wine when his phone went off. He glanced at the screen and smiled when he saw Justin’s name.

“Hey there, are you almost done?”

“Not even close,” Justin replied. “Nobody knows what they are doing here. This is the last time that I’m showing my work in a new gallery. I figured I’d be on my way home by now, but it looks like I’m going to be here for at least another day. I’m sorry babe.”

“You don’t have to apologize,” Brian told him. “It sucks, and I miss you like crazy, but you have to do what you think is best for you. I get it.”

“I know. I just don’t like being away from you. I miss you, too. Anything exciting going on there?”

“No, it’s actually been pretty quiet around here. Gina and Tony left this morning to go visit her mother in the nursing home. They probably won’t be back until late. I was taking advantage of the quiet and grading papers when Trent stopped by. I was just pouring a couple glasses of wine when you called.”

“Wine?” Justin asked. “Babe, it’s eleven o’clock in the morning and you’re drinking wine? What’s going on?”

“I don’t know. Trent is clearly upset over something and when I offered him a coke, he asked if we had anything stronger. I’m not a fan of day drinking so I decided we’d stick to wine and not break out the hard stuff,” Brian explained.

“That’s probably a good idea. Go talk to Trent and see if you can help. I’ll call you tonight before I go to sleep. Love you.”

“I love you, too.”

Brian put his phone back in his pocket, finished pouring the wine and then took the glasses out to the living room. Trent was standing by the fireplace, looking at the photos on the mantle. “Here you go.” 

Trent turned around and took the offered glass. “That is a great shot of all of us. When was it taken?”

“That was the summer before senior year,” Brian said. “Justin and I had just started seeing each other, but nobody knew yet. It seems like so long ago, doesn’t it?”

“Almost seven years. Damn, I can’t believe it’s been that long since we were young and stupid and so excited for our senior year. What I wouldn’t give to go back to those carefree days.”

“Yeah, but then you wouldn’t have Kaleb,” Brian pointed out.

“Okay, you got me there. I wouldn’t trade him for anything. But I do miss being carefree sometimes.”

“That’s probably because you became a dad at 18,” Brian laughed. “The rest of us had a little more time to be kids.”

“This is true,” Trent chuckled before taking a sip of his wine. From the moment he said goodbye to Maddie and promised to consider her offer, all he could think about was seeing Brian. He needed to confide in someone and of all their friends, Brian was the easiest to talk to. Of course, now that he was there, he didn’t know where to begin.

“Are you ready to talk about what’s bothering you?” Brian asked when it was obvious Trent wasn’t going to say anything. “I’m a great listener.”

“Have you ever been with a woman?”

Brian tried to hide his surprise. Whatever was going on with Trent, he had a feeling that his friend wouldn’t appreciate being laughed at. “Um…not really. I kissed a few girls back when I was living with my parents, but that was more for self-preservation than a desire to do it. I never questioned my sexuality.”

“Would you be with a woman? I mean…if Justin asked you to be with a woman, would you do it? Rather than run the risk of losing him?”

“Trent, what’s going on?”

“I don’t even know where to begin,” Trent admitted.

“Why not start at the beginning? I’ve got all day.”

Trent quickly downed the rest of his wine and put down his glass before he started pacing the room. “I’ve been seeing someone. Her name is Maddie and she’s just…she’s beautiful. She has long wavy hair and smooth olive skin. And these intense dark brown eyes. When she’s focused on you, it’s like you’re the only one in the world, you know? And she’s so sweet. She’s kind of a hippy, if that term is even used these days. She has her tarot cards read weekly and believes in love not war, you know what I mean? She’s a barista at that funky coffee house over by the mall. I met her about six months ago and we just hit it off. It was supposed to be casual, and that’s exactly what I wanted. Being a single dad doesn’t leave me a lot of time to date so I figured casual would be perfect. I’m young. I figured that once Kaleb went off to college, I could focus on my love life.”

“Let me guess. You’re in love with her.”

“Head over heels,” Trent sighed.

“And she doesn’t feel the same for you?” Brian prodded when Trent didn’t elaborate.

“No, that’s the thing. I think she does. We didn’t use the ‘L’ word, but she definitely wants to see where things go.”

“Then what’s the problem?”

“She’s not single.”

“What do you mean she’s not single? You’ve been seeing a married woman?”

“No,” Trent replied quickly. “It’s not like that.”

“Then what is it like?” Brian asked.

“Have you heard of the term polyamorous?”

“Isn’t that where there’s like one husband and a bunch of wives?”

Trent chuckled. “No, that’s polygamy. In a polyamorous relationship, there is usually one primary couple, but each person has a secondary relationship. It would be like you and Justin being together as you are now, but each one of you also has a boyfriend on the side. But it’s not like an affair. There’s no sneaking around. You would know about all parties involved, but your main focus would be on your relationship with each other.”

Brian had to think about that for a minute. “That sounds complicated. I get having an open relationship. To me that makes sense. You have the ability to get your needs met outside of the relationship, but there can’t be any feelings involved. The hook-ups are just that. Strictly sex. I don’t understand why anyone would want to have more than one relationship.”

“I don’t know either, but apparently Maddie and Dylan decided to give it a try a few years ago to help their relationship. They love each other, but Dylan is bisexual and has desires to be with men occasionally. They didn’t feel that an open relationship was for them. Neither one of them liked the idea of going out to have sex with random strangers.”

“Okay, I don’t understand it, but if it works for their relationship, then good for them. I guess you are Maddie’s secondary relationship?”

“Yeah, for the last six months. But now…Dylan doesn’t want to do it anymore. He said he’s tired of trying to make more than one relationship work.”

“So, Maddie broke up with you?” Brian asked.

“Not exactly. There’s still the issue of Dylan having needs that Maddie can’t satisfy. And Maddie said she doesn’t want to end things between us, so…”

“So her solution is…” Brian said when Trent paused.

“For us to be a threesome,” Trent admitted. “This way she can be with us both and Dylan can get his needs met. She figures that if the three of us are together, we would only have to focus on one relationship. Ours.”

“But you’re not gay…or bisexual.”

“I'm aware…that’s why I’m freaking out. I’ve never even considered being with a man. I don’t even know if I could get it up for a guy.”

“But if you don’t agree to this…”

“Then Maddie and I are through. She doesn’t want to end things with us, but she has made it clear from day one that she and Dylan are as good as married and they are going to stay that way. She’s not going to leave him for me, but she will leave me for him if she has to.”

“Wow,” Brian said. “I don’t even know what to say. I’m guessing by the fact that you’re here telling me this, that you’re considering it?”

“I don’t want to…but I really love her. Like, I’ve never felt this way about anybody before. I can’t even imagine never seeing her again. So, back to my earlier question. If you had to choose between being with Justin and a woman, or losing Justin forever, would you do it?”

Brian laughed. “Probably…There’s no way I’d ever let Justin go. We just spent six months apart not that long ago, and it was awful. I’ll never let him go again. That being said, there’s a huge difference between you and me?”

“What do you mean?”

“Dude, I’m a slut. I have sex on the brain 24/7. And…sex is just sex to me. In fact, not many people know this, but the reason Justin and I broke up was because I wanted to open up our relationship to anonymous sex and Justin wouldn’t go for it. I’ve never been with a woman, and I’ve never had a desire to be with a woman, but I’m pretty sure I could make things work if I had to. Before you met Maddie, how long had it been since you last had sex?”

“I’m not sure…at least a year probably.”

“Exactly. The longest I’ve ever gone without sex is a week…and that’s only when Justin is out of town for a showing. When he’s here, we have sex every day.”

“Every day?”

“At least once…sometimes two or three times.” Brian laughed at the shocked look on Trent’s face. “Sorry, but that’s the upside to being gay. Two men, two raging sex drives, lots of sex.”

“Damn, I think I wish I was gay.”

“It does have its perks,” Brian smiled. “But back to you…how exactly does Maddie think this is going to go? What are she and Dylan looking for?”

“I’m not sure. Apparently, she hasn’t even spoken to Dylan about this yet. She said she knows he thinks I’m hot, but she wanted to talk to me first to see if it sounded like something I would be willing to try. She said that we would just start out slow, with Dylan and I getting to know one another and then see what happens. She told me that it would always be the three of us. That she would always be there with me.”

“Are you considering it?”

“Maybe? I don’t know. When I think about losing her, I’m ready to agree to anything, but when I think about being with Dylan…I just don’t know if I can do it.”

“What does Dylan look like? Is he at least good looking?” Brian asked.

“How would I know? I’ve never met him.”

“Okay, I think we should start there. Does Maddie have a Facebook page?”

“I don’t know…I don’t have one, so I never asked.”

Brian sighed. “How can you be a computer programmer and not have social media?”

“It’s because I’m a computer programmer. Between school and work, I have spent the last five years on the computer constantly. The last thing I want to do when I clock out at night is look at a computer.”

“Hmm…good point. Let me grab my iPad and do a little digging.”

Brian pulled up his Facebook and began searching for Maddie’s profile while Trent resumed his pacing. It didn’t take long for him to find it. “You’re right, she is beautiful.”

“See? I don’t want to give her up.”

“Okay, now to her photos…and holy shit!”


“Dylan is fucking gorgeous.”

“He is?” Trent asked. “Let me see.”

He walked over to Brian and took the iPad. Even though he was straight, it was easy to see that the face staring at him from the screen was very attractive. It was a picture of Dylan and Maddie together and they made a stunning couple. “So now what?”

“I obviously can’t tell you what to do, but if it were me, I think I would at least give it a try. Meet with them and see how it goes. What do you have to lose? It’s not like you have to sign a contract or anything. If, after you spend some time together, you can’t imagine doing what Maddie is suggesting, then you say goodbye. But at least you’ll know that you tried. You won’t have to spend the rest of your life wondering what if.”

“I guess,” Trent replied. “Thanks for listening, and not making me feel like a freak show for even considering it.”

“Look, if you decide to do this, there are going to be people who don’t understand. Don’t let them make you feel bad about it. This is your life, and you can live it however you want, as long as you’re happy and no one gets hurt.”

“Thanks Bri.”

“Anytime. Now why don’t we go grab lunch? I’m starving.”

“That sounds good. Kaleb spent the weekend over at Benji and Brad’s house and I’ve been stuck with nothing but my thoughts. I could use a distraction.”

“Then let’s go. Justin isn’t going to be home until tomorrow, so I have nothing to do today. It’s been way too long since we had a guys’ day out. I’ll drive.”

Trent was more than willing to spend the day with his friend and put the whole Maddie and Dylan mess behind him for the afternoon.






It was decided that the reunion would take place at Eric and Dane’s house since they had a lot more room than Steve had at his place. Leslie was due at 11:00 and it was already quarter of. Charlie, Dane and the kids were all down in the basement, waiting for their signal to come up. Steve thought it was best for them to have a few minutes alone with their mother so they could tell her about Dane and make sure she was going to be okay with Eric being gay before introducing her to the kids. Eric was so thankful that he was able to finish up the basement remodel the year before. At Dane’s suggestion, they had partitioned off a fifth bedroom, a small kitchen, a full bathroom and a living room and separate bar area with a pool table, video games, and a small area for watching movies on a large screen TV. Eric had joked that the basement was nicer than the rest of the house, but the space came in handy for when the girls had friends over or times like this when they needed extra room.

“Are you okay?” Steve asked as he watched his brother nervously straighten up the already immaculate living room.

“Of course, why wouldn’t I be?”

“Oh, I don’t know. We’re about to see our mother for the first time in almost seven years and you’re going to tell her you’re engaged to a man when she never knew you were bisexual.”

“Oh…that,” Eric chuckled. “Yeah, I guess I’m a little on edge. It’s just…I’ve been very happy these last six years, being with Dane and raising the girls. I didn’t need to have a mother, you know? But now…if she turns her back on me because I’m in love with a man? It’s going to hurt, and I don’t know if I’m ready for that.”

“I know,” Steve said as he walked over and laid a comforting hand on his brother’s shoulder. “I was thinking about that, too. I’ve been very happy too, but now that I talked to her, I’m kind of looking forward to having her back, and if she were to walk away again…”

“Hey, if she turns her back on me for being bisexual, you don’t have to…”

“If she turns her back on you, then she’s out of my life, too. I told you before that you, Dane and the girls are my family. I’ve been without parents for almost seven years. I don’t need her in my life. You come first. You will always come first.”

Eric pulled Steve into a tight hug. “Thanks, little brother. Right back at you.”

Just then the doorbell rang and both men looked at each other. “I guess we’ll know soon enough how she feels,” Steve said nervously.

“I’ll get the door,” Eric said as he walked towards the entryway. He took a deep breath, opened the door and came face to face with his mother. His resolve to remain aloof shattered as he reached out and pulled his mother into a bear hug.

“Oh, my baby,” Leslie cried as she was engulfed in her son’s arms. “I’ve missed you so much. Let me look at you.”

Eric pulled back and quickly wiped away the dampness from his eyes. “I look the same.”

“No, you don’t. You are even more handsome,” Leslie replied. “And you look so grown up…and happy. You look happy.”

“I am, mom. I am happy. Now come on in. Steve is waiting in the living room.”

As soon as Leslie saw Steve, she burst into tears and rushed over to him, taking him in her arms. “Oh, my sweet little boy. I’m missed you so much. I’m so sorry for everything. I can’t believe I let that man come between us.”

“Mom, it’s so good to see you,” Steve whispered as he fought to hold back his tears.

“I can’t believe how much you both have grown up,” she said as she pulled back and looked at both her sons. “Every night, when I closed my eyes, I always saw my beautiful little boys playing in the back yard or riding their bikes down the street. I never once saw these two handsome men. Let’s sit down. I want to hear all about what you both have been up to.”

Eric and Steve looked at each other before taking a seat. They had decided the day before that Eric would share his news first. This way they would know right away if she was going to stay in their lives.

“Well, for starters I just opened my own restaurant,” Eric began.

“Oh honey, how wonderful! I’m so proud of you. I can’t wait to try it. I’m sure it will be wonderful. What about your love life? Do you have someone special? Are you married?”

“Actually, I’m engaged. We’re getting married in the Fall.”

“Oh Eric, that’s great. Is she around here somewhere? I’d love to meet her.”

And the moment of truth had arrived. “Actually mom, you already know my fiancé. It’s Dane.”

“Dane?” Leslie asked in confusion. “You mean Dane Sommers? Steve’s friend?”

“Yeah. Funny story, when I moved back to Sierra Vista and Steve moved in with me, Dane and I started spending a lot of time together. He was in culinary school, so I hired him to work for me at Robert’s restaurant and one thing led to another. We’ve been together for just about six years.”

“He had a child, right? A daughter if I remember correctly?”

“Yes, Julia. She lives with Dane and I now, along with my daughter Gracie.”

“You have a daughter, too? Oh sweetheart, I’m so happy for you. It sounds like you made a really nice life for yourself,” Leslie replied.

Eric and Steve looked at each other in shock. Their mother didn’t even bat an eye when she learned that Eric was marrying a man. Eric cleared his throat before he spoke. “I have to say, I’m a little surprised. I wasn’t sure how you were going to take finding out that I’m bisexual.”

“How did you think I was going to take it? Eric, my wish for my children is for them to be happy. It’s obvious that you’re happy. That’s all that matters. And I always liked Dane. You could have done worse. I never liked that girl you took to your senior prom. What was her name? Stacy? Sandy?”

“You mean Shelly? Why didn’t you like Shelly?”

“I don’t know. I guess I always thought her to be a bit of a tramp,” Leslie admitted.

Eric laughed. “She was, why do you think I dated her?”

“Oh Eric,” Leslie scoffed before turning her attention to Steve. “And what about you? You mentioned buying the bookstore. What else is going on with you?”

“I’m married and I have two kids of my own. My daughter’s name is Abby, and my son is Steven Jr. He’s only two months old and the sweetest little thing. And my wife…she’s the best woman I know. I’m not sure how I got so lucky, but I’m happier than I ever imagined.”

“That’s so good to hear. Are any of them around? I would love to meet my daughter-in-law and my grandchildren.”

“They’re all downstairs. We thought it was best to have a little time alone with you just in case…” Eric trailed off.

“In case…I had a problem with you and Dane?” Leslie finished for him. “I don’t know why you would think I’d have a problem with it. Your father and I were always very supportive of gay people. Look at your uncle.”

“My uncle?”

“Yeah, Uncle Oliver. He’s gay and we always welcomed him into our home.”

“Uncle Oliver is gay?” Steve exclaimed. “I never knew that.”

“Me neither,” Eric said. “Then again, we didn’t see him that much when we were young.”

“That’s because he was a Marine. He was always stationed in different locations. By the time he did his 20 years and retired, you were already out of the house and Steve was getting ready to go off to Princeton.”

“That explains it. How did he manage to make it through 20 years in the Marines being gay?” Eric asked.

“Don’t ask, don’t tell,” Leslie replied. “It’s kind of sad. He spent most of his adult life alone because he couldn’t be out and proud. He’s dated a few times here and there in the last few years, but none of them worked out. I keep hoping he’ll find Mr. Right so he can settle down. He deserves that.”

“Wow, I can’t believe we didn’t know,” Steve said. “I’ll go run downstairs and get everybody to come up.”

“Thank you, sweetheart,” Leslie said. “Thank you both for giving me a second chance. I promise to make it up to you.”

“It’s okay, mom. You don’t have to make anything up to us. We’re happy and now that you’re back in our lives, we can put the past behind us and move on,” Eric replied.

“Yeah,” Steve added. “We’re all good now.”

Once everyone came up from the basement and the introductions were made, Leslie turned all her focus on the children, trying to form a grandmotherly bond with them. Steve and Charlie stayed close, holding little Stevie and enjoying the family time. Eric stood back, leaning against the wall with a smile as he watched his family interact. He never noticed Dane approach.

“Hey babe, are you alright? You haven’t really said much since we came upstairs.”

“Huh? Oh, sorry. I’m just…”

“Overwhelmed?” Dane suggested.

“Kind of. I just never imagined having her back in my life. It feels so surreal. You should have been here. When I told her we were engaged, she didn’t bat an eye. She said she always liked you and that I could do worse. Then she trashed my senior prom date,” Eric chuckled.

“You mean that bitch Shelly? I hated her,” Dane replied.

Eric looked at Dane in shock. “What? Why? You didn’t even know her.”

“No, but I knew you were dating her, and I was just starting to crush on you. When you guys left for prom, I locked myself in the bathroom and cried. Steve didn’t understand why I was upset, and I couldn’t tell him, so I told him that I was sick. Your mom called my mom, and she came over and picked me up. I was so upset because Steve and I were having a sleepover and we were going to watch movies and stay up all night, but I had to leave. I blamed the whole thing on that bitch Shelly.”

Eric laughed. “I’m sorry we ruined your night, my love. Come here. How about if, after everyone leaves and the girls are in bed, you and I stay up all night and not watch movies so I can make it up to you.”

“Well, I don’t think I can stay up all night since I have to work in the morning, but I’m definitely up to us going to bed so you can…make it up to me.”

“You’ve got a deal,” Eric said as he leaned in and kissed Dane softly. “Is it too early to throw everyone out and send the girls to bed?”

“Babe, it’s just past noon. I think we’re going to have to wait a while,” Dane chuckled. “I really love you; you know that?”

“I love you more,” Eric replied before leaning in for another kiss.

“Alright you two,” Steve called from the other side of the room. “Knock it off and figure out what we should do for lunch. We’re all starving. Should we just order take out?”

“Bro, you’re in a house owned by two chefs. Do you really think we’re ordering out?”

“Yeah, Uncle Steve. Daddy and Dane were up really late last night making all kinds of food. You should know better than that,” Gracie said as she rolled her eyes.

The room erupted in laughter before Eric and Dane went into the kitchen to pull out the food they had prepared. Eric had been so worried about how things were going to go, but now he could relax and enjoy the day with his family and be thankful that his mother was back in his life.






Chris was once again sitting alone in his hotel room thinking about his life and how he ended up across the pond, more than five thousand miles away from his family. He knew he had wanted to be a writer at an early age, but he never imagined he would be making the New York Times Best Sellers list and that one of his books would be made into a movie, waiting for a sequel. He was thankful for all that he had, but he missed Zander more than he ever thought possible and all he wanted to do was go home to his family.

Being away from everyone gave him a lot of free time on his hands, though, which gave him a lot of time to write. He managed to finish up the book he had been working on and start a rough draft for an idea he had while he was still in the States. Todd was thrilled with his progress and with how well the tour was going. Then again, Todd was single and didn’t have anyone waiting at home for him.

It had been a long day. Todd had booked him for two back-to-back signings. One of them was from 12:00 – 2:00 and the other one was from 4:00 – 6:00 with an hour of travel time between them. He had left his hotel at 9:00 that morning to have breakfast before getting on the road, and he didn’t get back until 7:30. There hadn’t been time for lunch. He had jumped in the shower and then placed a call for room service. He was looking forward to having his dinner and then relaxing while he waited for his call from Zander. They had agreed to speak as often as possible, which usually meant twice a day. Chris called Zander when he woke up each morning, which was around midnight back in Arizona. Then Zander would call Chris around his lunch time, which was usually between 8:00 & 9:00 at night in London. It definitely wasn’t ideal, but it was the best they could do for the time being. They hadn’t seen each other in almost four weeks due to Chris heading overseas and having a busy schedule. They were hoping to arrange a visit sometime soon, but so far nothing had been able to be set up.

A slight knock at the door pulled Chris from his thoughts. He walked to the door, thankful for the prompt service. He was starving and couldn’t wait to eat. He turned the knob and yanked open the door, coming face to face with Zander.

“Surprise!” Zander said as he dropped his bag and threw himself into Chris’s arms.

It only took Chris a moment to react before he grabbed his partner and held him tight. “I have never been so happy to see someone in my entire life.”

Zander held on as he fought back his tears. He never imagined just how hard it was going to be for them to be so far apart. “I’ve missed you so much,” he murmured softly.

“I’ve missed you, too,” Chris replied. He eventually pulled back and looked Zan in the face, “God, you are so beautiful.”

Zander smiled before covering Chris’s mouth with his own. Their kiss was a mixture of passion and raw need, neither one of them heard anyone approach, and jumped when they heard someone clear their throat.

“I’m sorry sir, but I have your…um…room service.”

Chris chuckled when he saw Zan turn bright red. “Sorry buddy, I haven’t seen the love of my life in 4 weeks. You’re lucky all you saw was us kissing.”

“Christopher!” Zander exclaimed in horror.

“No need to apologize,” the hotel worker assured them. “If I was apart from my man for 4 weeks, we’d be the same way. Enjoy your evening, sirs.”

Chris pulled the tip from his shorts and passed it to the guy before taking the offered tray. “Believe me, we’re going to.”

Once they were behind closed doors, it took mere seconds for Chris to put down the tray, his hunger for food forgotten, and take Zander in his arms. It took almost two hours before they were both temporarily satisfied and lying in each other’s arms.

“Wow, I think that’s our longest run yet,” Chris said as he kissed Zander’s temple.

“Longest without a break in between, I think you’re right,” Zan chuckled. “I’m sorry about your dinner. I’m sure it’s cold by now.”

“It was worth it, although now I’m starving. Are you hungry? Have you even eaten today? What time did you leave the house this morning?”

“Well, actually I left the house last night. I got to the airport around midnight and was on stand-by, waiting for a cancellation. I dozed on and off all night while I waited. Boy are those seats in the airport uncomfortable! I was finally offered a flight that left out of Arizona at 7:10 this morning. I landed here around five. I only packed an overnight bag, so I made it out of the airport fairly quickly and somehow managed to get an Uber to bring me to the hotel, and here I am,” Zan explained.

Chris looked at Zander and felt such a rush of love for the younger man. “I can’t believe you went through all that to come and see me.”

“I would travel to the moon and back if it meant I got to see you,” Zander replied honestly. “I was sitting at home last night missing you so much and getting frustrated that we couldn’t find a way to make a trip work. Justin and Jason stopped by and could tell I was in a mood. When I told them why, Jason offered to help out at the center in my absence so I could get away for a few days.”

“Jason?” Chris asked in confusion.

“Yeah, he’s a licensed therapist which is all the center needs for him to run my group meetings and I was able to reschedule the couple one on ones I had. I knew that you had the next two days free from signings, remember? We talked about trying to find a way for you to fly home before we realized that if you flew home for two days, you would spend 30 of the 48 hours traveling. I’m here for four days, if you want me to stay that long,” Zan teased.

“Are you kidding? I want you to quit your job and stay with me always, but I’ll settle on four days for now. On the days I have the signings, you can come with me and sit by my side while I meet and greet. Luckily, I don’t have any more back-to-back signings scheduled until we leave London next week and get to Germany,” Chris replied before kissing Zan deeply. He pulled back before things got to out of hand and they went another round. “Nope, no more of that until after we eat. I just have to make one phone call first.”

Chris reached for his cell and placed a quick call to Todd, letting him know that if he so much as sent him a text message in the next 48 hours, he was fired, and Chris was heading home. Todd laughed, but once Chris explained that Zander was there, he completely understood and promised not to reach out until it was time to head to the next signing.

Once that was done, Chris ordered more room service and the two of them spent the next hour talking and finally eating their meal. Once they were done. Chris put the trays outside the door for pickup and went back inside to find Zander dozing off at the table.

“Babe, come on. Let’s get you to bed.”

“Huh?” Zander replied as he pulled himself from sleep. “No, I’m okay. We haven’t seen each other is weeks. I want to keep talking.”

“No sweetheart, no more talking tonight. You’re exhausted, and with very good reason. It’s after 11:00. Why don’t we both get some sleep and we can start tomorrow morning out fresh and ready for some fun. I can take you around and show you some of the places I’ve found since I’ve been here and there’s this great little pub a few blocks away that you’re going to love.”

Zander was way too tired to argue. He allowed Chris to lead him to the bed and was vaguely aware of a pair of lips kissing his forehead before he lost consciousness.

Chris smiled to himself as Zander immediately drifted off to sleep, and then walked around to his own side of the bed. He sent a text in the family chat letting the kids know that Zander made it to him safe and was already sleeping, then he made himself comfortable with the man he loved in his arms and drifted off to sleep.

Zander could feel the bed shaking and groaned as he pulled the covers up over his head.

“Hey sleeping beauty, I know you’re still tired, but I also know you’ll be mad if you sleep the whole day away. I think it’s time to get up,” Chris said softly as he gently shook the man’s shoulder.

“Ten more minutes,” Zander mumbled.

Chris chuckled. Zander had always been a morning person. In all their years together, he never once refused to wake up. “That’s what you said an hour ago.”

“An hour ago?” Zan asked sleepily. “What time is it?”

“It’s after noon,” Chris told him.

“What?” Zan exclaimed as he quickly jumped him, but then suddenly regretted it. His head started to swim. “It’s after noon? I’ve been sleeping for twelve hours?”

“Thirteen and a half to be exact,” Chris replied.

“Oh my God! Why did you let me sleep that long?”

Chris leaned in and kissed his partner on the forehead. “Because I knew you were exhausted. From your night in the airport, to your full day of travel, to the jet lag, your body needed the rest. Besides, I have thoroughly enjoyed watching you sleep.”

“How long have you been up?”

“Oh, about five hours now. I went to the hotel gym and worked out for about an hour, then I came back and took a shower. When you showed no signs of waking up, I took my laptop to the coffeehouse at the corner and did a little writing. Then, when I came back, I tired waking you up, but you asked for ten more minutes, so I spent the last 90 minutes watching you sleep and now here we are.”

“Oh Babe, I’m so sorry. I didn’t come here for you to watch me sleep. Give me fifteen minutes to jump in the shower and I’ll be ready to go.”

“Or…” Chris began as he climbed over Zander and curled up alongside him. “We can roll around in bed for an hour or two and then we can both take a shower and be ready to go.”

Zan smiled as he rolled over and wrapped his arms around the man he loved. “I think that sounds like a great plan.”

Nothing more was said as the two men lost themselves in each other.






Matt was sitting in the passenger seat of the police car, watching the scenery go by when he heard his partner call his name. “Yeah?”

“Are you with me?” Collins asked. “I’ve been calling your name for six blocks and you didn’t hear me.”

“Sorry, I guess my mind is in a different place,” Matt replied.

“I know, I can see that. What’s going on?”

“I’m gay,” Matt blurted out. He had been thinking about his life a lot since the shooting and the weeks of therapy afterwards, and he decided he didn’t want to hide who he was anymore. He didn’t want David to have to hide who he was. Too bad if his father got mad. Their relationship was pretty much non-existent as it was. Losing him completely wouldn’t really change much but being open about who he was sounded so freeing. If something had happened to him during that awful call, he would have died without most people ever knowing who he really was and that just didn’t seem right to him. Not anymore.

“Oh…um…okay,” Collins stuttered. “I noticed you’ve been kind of distant the last few days, but this is not what I was expecting.”

“I know. I’m sorry I kept it from you. Not that many people know. My dad…well, you know my dad. He’s a homophobic prick and told me that if I came out of the closet, I wouldn’t be part of the family anymore, so I’ve been hiding it from everyone except my friends from high school. But after…what happened. Life’s too short, you know? And I don’t want to hide who I am anymore. My boyfriend…partner…he’s been pretty unhappy having to live in the closet to avoid people finding out about us. I haven’t been very fair to him. So, I’m not hiding anymore. But listen, I know not everyone is okay with the gay thing, so if you want to put in for a new partner, I’ll understand.”

“Why would I want a new partner? We’ve been together since your first day. It’s taken a long time to build the friendship we’ve got. You’re not going anywhere. I couldn’t care less who you love. We make a good team. That’s all I care about,” Collins assured him. “Wait…you’ve got a boyfriend? Who is this guy? I want to meet him. You’ve met my wife and kids and all this time you’ve been holding out on me. I expect you and lover boy at my house for dinner tomorrow night. No excuses.”

Matt laughed. “Yeah, okay. Thanks buddy. You’re the first person I’ve come out to since I came out to my friends my freshman year of college and that was pretty easy. Most of them are gay or bisexual. I’ve been thinking about coming out for a couple months now, but I didn’t plan on doing it today. It just kind of happened, but I’m glad that I did.”

“Me too. You know that you won’t have any issues coming out at work, right? We have plenty of gay guys on the force. It’s never discussed, but isn’t that really the way it should be? I don’t walk around the precinct announcing I’m straight. We just live our lives and if it comes up in conversation, then it comes up in conversation.”

“Yeah, that’s what Andrew said.”

“Oh yeah, I forgot he’s your uncle. Having him there should have told you that it would be okay coming out,” Collins replied. “From what he’s been saying, one of the reasons he transferred into our district is because he wanted to be open, and his last place was a lot more homophobic.”

“I know that now, but actually we didn’t know each other was gay until the night of the Lincoln Park shooting. He came by my house to check on me and figured out that my ‘roommate’ and I are more than just friends. My father hadn’t told anyone in my family when I came out, and apparently he forced his brother to keep his own secrets. I guess he’s one of the reasons why I decided to come out. Andrew is gay and my whole family has known for twenty years and he wasn’t disowned. And, if I am disowned, then that’s their loss. I have David, who is the love of my life, and I have a great family in the friends I’ve made along the way. Losing my father will hurt, but it’s a chance I’m willing to take to be truly happy with myself.”

“Good for you. And I hope you think of me as your family as well. Tina and I both, as well as the boys. We’re all here for you if you ever need anything. Screw your old man if he doesn’t see what a great son he has,” Collins said.

Before anything more could be said, the radio went off signaling there was a car accident only a few blocks away from where they were. Matt alerted dispatch that they were on their way and all talk about their personal lives ended. They had a job to do.

By the time Matt got home and walked through the front door, it was one in the morning, and he was exhausted. The car accident that had interrupted his and Collins conversation was pretty bad. They had been the first on the scene and he had to begin administering CPR to one of the victims who had been ejected from his vehicle. The kid couldn’t have been more than seventeen, eighteen years old. Matt had managed to get the kid breathing again by the time the paramedics showed up and a quick call to the hospital right before the end of his shift told him that the kid was in critical condition, but the doctor was fairly certain that he would make a full recovery.

After the accident, it felt like one thing after another right up until it was time for them to head into the precinct. They had two more accidents, a carjacking, a robbery, a few domestic calls and two DUI stops to deal with during their shift and that turned into a whole lot of paperwork that needed to be done. Matt had sent a text earlier to let David know he’d be late and to go to bed without him. No point in having them both up half the night.

The first thing he did was go into his office and lock away his gun. Then he stripped down to his underwear and deposited his uniform into the hamper and threw on the robe he kept there. Then he went to the kitchen and opened the fridge. He was so happy to see that David had left him a plate. He hadn’t had a chance to eat anything during his shift and he was starving. He took his plate and popped it in the microwave to heat up while he grabbed himself a beer. He had only taken his second bite when David walked in looking slightly rumpled and hotter than ever.

“Hey babe, how was your shift?” David asked as he made his way over and placed a soft kiss on Matt’s temple, before walking around the kitchen island so that they were directly across from each other.

“Busy, exhausting, the usual. I did possibly save a kid’s life though,” Matt replied with a smile. Then he told David about the accident and how he found the kid not breathing, what he had done to get him breathing and how he had called the hospital and was told that he was most likely going to be okay.

“You are an amazing man, you know that? I’m so proud to be your partner,” David said as he laid a loving hand on Matt’s arm.

“I was just doing my job,” Matt replied, feeling a little shy at the praise. “Oh yeah, and I came out to Collins today, too.”

“You did?” David asked as he looked closely at Matt. “Why…how…?”

“I told you weeks ago that I was thinking of coming out, remember? I’m tired of not being able to be who I am. Today…I don’t know. It just felt like the right time to start telling people and I wanted Collins to be the first. I didn’t even know I was going to do it until the words just popped out,” Matt chuckled.

“And how did it go?”

“It went great…and we have to be at his house tomorrow night at 5:30 for dinner. He wants to meet the love of my life.”

David smiled. “I’m really happy for you, babe. I know just having your partner know will be a huge relief for you.”

Matt looked over at David and was suddenly so overwhelmed with love for him that his mouth once again spoke before his brain had time to think. “Marry me.”

David looked at Matt as he tried to comprehend what the other man was saying. “What did you say?”

“I said marry me,” Matt replied as he got up, walked around to the other side of the counter and dropped down on one knee. He took David’s hands in his and continued. “I want to marry you. I want to be your husband. I want to wake up beside you every morning and fall asleep beside you every night. I want to spend the rest of my life with you.”

David had to blink back tears as he dropped down to come face to face with the love of his life. “There is nothing in this world that would make me happier than being your husband. I love you so much.”

“I love you, too” Matt whispered as he leaned in and covered David’s mouth with his own. His dinner was forgotten, his workday was forgotten, even the fact that they were in the kitchen was forgotten as they made love on the hard floor beneath them. They had each other. That was all that mattered.

End of part 11


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