Now That You’re Here: Life Moves On


Chapter 12





It was the end of Zander’s second day in London, and he was exhausted. He still hadn’t found his footing from the time change, and they had spent the last day and a half playing tourists. They wanted to see most of the sights that had been on their list since neither one of them knew if they would ever make it back to the beautiful city.


After enjoying a nice dinner at the pub Chris had told Zander about, they headed back to the hotel for a relaxing evening. They needed to be up early to get to the next day’s signing. They took a hot shower together, which resulted in a couple of mind-numbing blowjobs and then curled up in bed together. It was then that Zander decided to share some of the details from home.


“So, I have something that I need to tell you and I need you to listen and not get worked up,” Zander began. “It’s nothing bad. Everyone is fine, but there’s something that you need to know.”


Chris didn’t like what he was hearing. “Go ahead.”


“Sophia has a boyfriend,” Zan said softly.


“What?” Chris exclaimed as he jumped out of bed and started pacing. “No, that’s impossible. I told her she wasn’t allowed to date until she was eighteen.”


“Yes, but then we said we would possibly consider it at sixteen,” Zan pointed out. “And besides, we always knew that it was a long shot giving her a timeline. Did you wait until you were eighteen to start dating, because I sure as hell didn’t?”


“We’re not talking about me. And we said possibly at sixteen. And she’s only fifteen! Who is this kid? We’ll just talk to his parents and tell them to keep their kid away from our little girl.”


“Babe, first of all we can’t do that. Sophia would never forgive us if we tried something like that. Besides, she’s turning sixteen in two weeks. We’d be fools to believe that she’s not going to date boys just because we tell her not to,” Zan replied. “And there’s another complication that we have to consider.”


“Oh, I can’t wait to hear this one,” Chris replied sarcastically.


“It’s Kaleb,” Zan said.


“Kaleb? You mean her best friend Kaleb? The kid she spends all her time with? The kid we allow her to have upstairs in her room…alone…with the door closed?” Chris stopped his pacing and stared at his partner. “You’ve got to be fucking kidding me.”


“Babe, can you please come over here and sit down so we can talk about this? Whether we like it or not, Sophia is growing up and we have to be reasonable when it comes to how we handle her. It’s almost like Brian and Justin all over again. They hid their relationship for months, which caused them to lie and sneak around behind our backs. I don’t want to make Sophia have to do that.”


Chris took a few deep breaths and then sat down on the bed next to Zander. He needed to get his anger under control. It wasn’t Zander’s fault that Sophia was going behind their backs and he didn’t want to take it out on him. “How long has this been going on?”


“At the risk of getting you all riled up and pacing again, they’ve been together about eleven months.”


“Eleven months!” Chris exclaimed. He tried to jump up out of bed again, but Zander’s arm on his stopped him. “They’ve been doing God knows what, locked away in her bedroom, for eleven months? I’ll kill them both.”


“No, you won’t,” Zander assured him. “You love them both, so we are going to handle this like the adults that we are.”


“Yeah, yeah…how did you find out?”


“Well, apparently Kaleb confessed to Trent a few months ago. Trent told them that they had to tell us what was going on, but the night that Sophia was going to confess was the night you told everyone about the book tour. Sophia was too upset to tell us and then you were leaving, and she didn’t want you to go away mad at her,” Zander explained, hoping that Chris would focus on Sophia not wanting to upset him and not the part where it took an additional three months to come clean. “Babe, she assured me that they aren’t having sex. That she and Kaleb talked and agreed that they were both too young to have sex.”


“I don’t believe this,” Chris said softly.


“They claim to be in love,” Zander added.


“What do they know about love? They’re just kids,” Chris replied.


“I don’t know, what does anyone know about love? We thought Brian and Justin were too young to know what love was when they were 17 and here they are, despite a little mini separation, they’re still together. Who are we to put a timeline on something like this?” Zan paused to let his words sink in. “Look, in a perfect world, we’d be able to keep Sophia our little princess until she graduated college, but that’s not possible. We need to look on the bright side to this. Do you realize how lucky we are?”


“Lucky?” Chris looked at Zander like he had lost his mind. “How are we lucky?”


“Babe, Sophia could have fallen in love with anybody. She could be dating a drug addict or a thief…somebody that could put her in harm’s way, but she’s not. She’s dating a boy that we would have handpicked for her if we had to pick someone. We know Kaleb and we love him. We know his father and love him, too. On top of that, Kaleb is probably more afraid of you than Sophia is. There’s no way he’s going to do anything to hurt her. That’s just not who he is. Trent raised a very nice young man. Isn’t that all we really want for Sophia?”


Chris thought about what Zander was saying and had to admit, he made some valid points. He just didn’t like the thought of his little girl growing up so fast. “I guess you’re right.”


“Of course I am. Aren’t I always?” Zan chuckled.


“Ha ha,” Chris replied dryly. “What else has been going on at home?”


“Let’s see…oh, Trevor and I had a sit down a couple weeks ago. He kept talking about moving out when he goes off to college. I told him he wasn’t allowed to move out until he graduated from college. Hopefully I got through to him this time. Um…the Big Brother program is doing great. We just enrolled three more kids in the last week, which brings us to ten so far. Matt has really been a big help, which is nice. I’ve seen a huge difference in him lately. He’s actually going to start telling people he’s gay. He said he’s done letting his father control him. What else…Oh yeah, and Leslie is back in Arizona and back in Steve and Eric’s lives. From what I was told, Bob was the badass and Leslie only went along with him because she thought she had to, but she finally decided to get out. Steve seems really happy to have his mom back. I think Eric is still a little skeptical, but he’s giving her a second chance.” Zander stopped talking when he noticed a faraway look on his partner’s face. “Babe, where did you go?”


“Huh?” Chris replied as he pulled himself from his thoughts. “I’m sorry, keep going. I’m listening.”


“What’s wrong?” Zan asked. “You seem sad.”


“I’m not sad, per se…or maybe I am. I just miss being home with everybody. Ever since I agreed to turn my book into a movie, I feel like I’m missing so much at home. I had to spend so much time away from you during the making of the movie, between writing the screenplay, being on set to help with the authenticity, the premiere…it was so hard for me. And I know that this tour is important for my career, but the thing is, I don’t want a career that’s going to take me away from my family. Being with you, watching Brian and Justin become strong independent men, watching Sophia becoming a young lady…that’s what matters to me. Making sure I promote a movie that I never really wanted to begin with is a waste of time that could be better spent with you. I’m going to finish the tour because I made a commitment, but I’m going to make sure Todd knows that this is it. I’m going back to being Chris Kinney, hermit.”


“Are you sure that’s what you want?”


“I’m positive,” Chris assured him.


Zan looked at his partner and felt his heart swell. “Thank God! I hate this. I have been crying every day since you told me you were going on a six-month tour. It took everything in me to keep from begging you not to go.”


“Babe, why didn’t you say something?”


“I didn’t want to hold you back from doing what was best for your career,” Zan admitted. “You have always been so supportive of me and what I want to do. I wanted to be that for you.”


“You have been that for me. Remember my early days? I was scrambling around, desperately trying to find work. Writing random articles for the paper or for magazines, trying to find a way to make money and help pay the rent. You were the one that kept encouraging me to keep writing. If it wasn’t for you, who knows where I’d be. Everything I am, I owe to you.”


“I love you so much,” Zan whispered, overcome with emotions.


“I love you, too,” Chris replied, feeling lighter than he had since he agreed to do the tour. He still had four more months on the road, but he took comfort in knowing that it was his last time leaving home for long periods of time. He knew he would have to take the occasional trip, especially for the movie premiere, but if Zander couldn’t get the time away to go with him, he wasn’t going to go for more than 48 hours, max. That was all that he was willing to sacrifice going forward. Todd would either have to accept that or resign as his publicist. There wasn’t going to be a third option.






Trent was sitting in his car outside of Maddie and Dylan’s apartment building wondering if he actually had the nerve to go inside. He had spoken to Maddie on the phone earlier in the week and agreed to at least meet Dylan and get to know him a little, and when he agreed, he was 100% sure it was what he wanted to do. But now that the time had come, he was having second thoughts. Trying to force himself to be with a guy wasn’t really much different than trying to make a gay man try to be straight. Without an attraction, could it be done? He was pulled from his thoughts by a knock on his window and jumped when he saw Maddie standing next to his car with a big smile on her face. The smile was contagious, and he returned it as he opened his door and got out of his car, locking the door behind him.


“You scared me. I didn’t see you there.”


“Sorry,” Maddie said as she leaned in and gave Trent a kiss. “I happened to be looking out the window and saw you pull in. Are you okay? You seem a little tense.”


“I guess I am,” Trent replied. “When we talked the other night, I was ready for this, but now I’m not so sure.”


“Sweetheart, relax…this is just a first meeting. We’ll go in, talk, have dinner and just get to know each other. I know I’m asking a lot of you, but I truly believe that the three of us could have something great. I know you pretty well and I know Dylan really well. I think you guys are going to really get along.”


“I guess only time will tell,” Trent sighed.


“Come on,” Maddie chuckled. “Let’s go inside.”


Trent allowed Maddie to take his hand and lead him to her apartment. He took a deep breath as she opened the door and led him inside. The living room was bigger than what he expected and was obviously decorated by Maddie. There were crystals and dream catchers everywhere he looked, along with a couple bean bag chairs and strings of beads hanging in what he figured was the doorway to the kitchen. As he took in his surroundings, he could hear Dylan on the phone ordering a couple of pizzas. His nerves shot up to another level at the sound of his voice.


“Come in and have a seat. I’m sure you heard; Dylan is ordering pizza. You’re still okay with that, right?”


Trent forced himself to focus on Maddie. “Pizza is fine with me.”


“Okay, the pizza will be ready in about 20 minutes,” Dylan said as he walked through the strings of beads and appeared in front of them. “So, you must be Trent. I’ve heard a lot about you.”


Trent took the outstretched hand and shook it. “Hi…um…yeah. That’s me…I’m Trent.”


Maddie laughed. “You’ll have to excuse him. He’s a little nervous. Sweetheart, would you like a glass of wine to calm your nerves?”


“Yeah, I think that might help a little,” Trent chuckled. “Sorry, I didn’t think I’d be this nervous.”


“No need to be nervous. Consider this a very small dinner party. Just good food and great conversation,” Dylan replied. “Babe, why don’t you grab some glasses and the wine. I’ll give Trent a quick tour of the apartment and then meet you in the living room.”


Trent didn’t have time to object to being left alone with Dylan, not that he would have, and suddenly they were walking through the apartment which was twice as big as where he and Kaleb lived.


“In case you haven’t figured it out yet, I let Maddie do all the decorating. The hippie in her craves all this junk. I just try to ignore it. I have to say though, I’m really getting tired of sitting in bean bag chairs,” Dylan laughed. “Oh well, that’s the price I pay to make her happy.”


“It’s…nice. I mean, not really my style, but it’s a nice place. I was actually on the waiting list for an apartment here but ended up having to take a place in Rockville. I have a two bedroom, but it’s not nearly as big as this. My bedroom is a decent size and I have my own bathroom, but my son’s bedroom is kind of small and the kitchen is tiny.” Trent could tell he was rambling, but he couldn’t help himself. He really needed that wine.


“This is actually a three bedroom. When we were looking for a place together, this was the only thing available, so we grabbed it. That door over there is just storage, and this,” Dylan said as he opened the door in front of them. “Is my home office. I don’t really use it much anymore, but it really came in handy during COVID.”


“What do you do?” Trent asked, suddenly realizing that he knew nothing about the man standing beside him.


“I guess Maddie hasn’t told you much about me. I’m an IT guy, and before you say it, yes, I know it’s a boring job. All I do is sit behind a desk all day and type away on my computer. I actually work for Apple in their support department. If you have trouble with a Mac and have to call in, my team is who you’re calling. I love what I do.”


Trent laughed. “I guess Maddie never told you about me either. I’m an IT guy, too. I’m a programmer.”


“No shit. I guess Maddie has a type.”


“Yeah, apparently she likes computer geeks.”


The two men made their way back to the living room just as Maddie was bringing in their wine glasses. “Here you go,” she said as she handed the glasses to Trent and Dylan.


“Thanks Babe. Why don’t you go pick up dinner and leave Trent and I here to talk?” Dylan suggested as he dropped down on one of the bean bags.


“I don’t know…” Maddie replied as she looked at Trent.


“It’s fine,” Trent replied. Walking through the apartment with Dylan helped ease some of his nerves. Maybe it would be a good idea for the two men to talk without Maddie around. “Dylan and I can get to know each other a bit while you’re gone.”


“Um…okay. As long as you don’t mind, I guess I’ll be back in about twenty minutes.”


“Take some money from my wallet,” Dylan told her.


Once she said goodbye and left, Dylan focused his attention on Trent again. “Bud, sit down. You’re making me nervous.”


Trent chuckled. “Sorry, I guess I’m still a little nervous myself.”


“There’s no reason to be nervous, but there is something I want to talk to you about.”


Trent dropped down in a bean bag chair and took a large gulp of his wine. He didn’t know what was coming, but he knew that no matter what it was, he wasn’t going to be prepared for it. “Okay, I’m listening.”


“You don’t want to do this, do you?”


Trent didn’t know how to respond, so he decided to play stupid. “Do this?”


Dylan chuckled. “This…us…me. I told Maddie that you were never going to go for something like this, but she insisted that we try. Can I ask what made you agree to meet with us?”


“Well, I guess the only answer I can give you is that I really care about Maddie and I’m not ready to say goodbye to her,” Trent admitted. “I knew going in that Maddie was in love with you and that what she and I had was only going to be a casual thing, and I was okay with that…but then…there’s just something about her. Before I met Maddie…I can honestly say, I’ve never felt about anyone the way I feel about her. I don’t know. Maybe I’m being stupid. I don’t even know how this would work long term. If you guys are as good as married, then eventually I’ll probably end up with my heart broken, right? I mean…the three of us? We’re not going to be together until death do us part, right? That’s not how things like this work.”


“Why not?” Dylan asked. “Look, we’ve never done this before so it’s new to all of us, just like our polyamorous relationship was new to Maddie and me when we first decided to try it. But why couldn’t it be the three of us until death do us part? And don’t get me wrong…we are a long way off from knowing how this is going to go. We all know that. But if this somehow works for us, why would we end it? Maddie and I aren’t looking to get our needs met. That’s what we were doing before and, in the end, it wasn’t what we needed. We want to find that someone special who makes our relationship complete. If this works for us…for all three of us…we have no intention of letting you go.”


“But…” Trent didn’t know what to say. He wasn’t sure what he thought would happen, but he hadn’t considered the possibility of being in a relationship with two other people for the rest of his life. The thought both scared and excited him. “What would we tell people? Our friends and family? My son?”


“The truth? Come on Trent, look around you. Every day there’s something new in the world. We went from straight people with very few openly gay or bisexual people to straight, gay, bisexual, pansexual, asexual, transgender, non-binary…and the list keeps growing. There are monogamous relationships, open relationships, polyamorous relationships, and three way relationships…or a throuple, but I hate that term. We can be whoever we want to be and those who love us, who really matter to us, will understand. And before you start panicking, I’m not suggesting you tell any of your friends and family about this right now. We are a very long way from that. But one day, if this works for us, you’ll have to start telling people about us, and I’m sure they will all accept you.” Dylan gave Trent a moment to think about what he said before continuing. “But let’s get back to my original question. You don’t want to do this, do you?”


Trent sighed. “I don’t know what I want. No…that’s not true. What I want is to be with Maddie. I know I want that. Unfortunately, you two are a package deal. No offense.”


“None taken,” Dylan smiled.


Trent smiled in return. “As far as how things are going to go, I can’t make any promises. You seem like a nice guy. I’m willing to get to know you better and then see what happens. That’s all I’ve got right now.”


“Okay, fair enough. I have a suggestion, though. How about…for now…we date separately. Wait, let me rephrase that. How about for now…at least for the next couple of months, you and Maddie date, just the two of you, and you and I ‘hang out’ just the two of us. I think the only way to see how you and I really get along is for us to just get to know each other better and I think that will be hard with Maddie between us as a buffer. I don’t want you to do anything you’re not comfortable with, but I also don’t want you to make rash decisions because having Maddie here might cause you to think with the wrong body parts. I know how persuasive she can be.”


Trent thought about what Dylan was suggesting for a moment. “Yeah, okay. I think you might be right. If anyone had told me a few weeks ago that I’d be considering entering into a relationship with a man and woman, I would have told them they were crazy, but here we are.”


“Maddie could sell ice to an Eskimo if she wanted to,” Dylan agreed. “Okay, I know your time is limited because of your son, but what do you have going on next Saturday? A buddy of mine told me about this awesome hiking trail about twenty miles outside of Sierra Vista. You want to go check it out?”


Trent reached into his pocket. “Let me just check our calendar.” At Dylan’s confused look, he explained. “Kaleb and I share a calendar so we each know where the other one has to be. It’s easier than trying to remember what we have going on.”


“That sounds like a cool way to stay on top of things. Growing up I had to constantly remind my parents of my baseball games or after schools clubs.”


Trent looked at the following weekend and saw that Kaleb was going to be away for the night with his grandfather. Dan had been promising to take him to another Diamondbacks game since the three of them went to one the previous season. The drive to Chase Field was over three hours long, so they decided to get a room and make it grandfather – grandson bonding weekend. “I actually have the entire day free. Kaleb will be with my dad.”


“Perfect! I will pick you up around ten in the morning and we’ll make a day of it. I’ll pack lunch and we can spend the day getting to know each other a little better. Sound good?”


“It’s a date…um…well, not a date…but you know what I mean.”


Dylan laughed as Trent tried to correct himself. “Relax, I know what you meant. I promise you that I will drop you off after the hike with your virtue intact.”


Before Trent could reply, the front door opened signaling Maddie had returned with the pizza. Dylan jumped up to help her. “I don’t know about you, but I’m starving. I’ll go grab some plates.”


As soon as Dylan took the pizza from Maddie and disappeared into the kitchen, Maddie kneeled down on the floor so she could talk quietly to Trent. “How were things while I was gone? Did you and Dylan talk? What do you think of him? Are you still willing to give this a try?”


Trent smiled, like he always did when Maddie was around. “We had a nice talk and we’re going hiking next weekend. We’ll see. I still can’t make any promises, but I’m not running away.”


“Good, I was hoping you were going to say that. I think I’m falling in love with you and I’m not ready to say goodbye. Come on, let’s go eat.”


Trent watched Maddie jump up and disappear into the kitchen in stunned silence. She was falling in love with him? What the hell was he supposed to do now?







Justin disconnected the call and then left his studio in search of Brian. He couldn’t wait to share the news. He found the love of his life in the dining room, helping Tony with his homework. “How’s it going in here?”


“Tony is just about finished with his homework, and then we’re going to go out and get some ice cream. Do you want to come with us? Gina hasn’t gotten home from work yet. Apparently there’s some kind of fundraiser that David is planning and he asked her if she could stay and help him make some phone calls.”


“I think I can be persuaded to get ice cream,” Justin replied.


“Yeah, I’m sure I’ll have to twist your arm,” Brian teased. “It’s amazing that you are still in such great shape with the way you eat.”


“I have a fast metabolism. And being with you keeps me very active,” Justin replied with a wink, so Brian understood what he meant without him having to say anything inappropriate in front of Tony. “Guess what? I just got off the phone with Matt. He proposed to David last night.”


“Wow, another one? I don’t understand what’s going on. Suddenly everyone around us is talking about marriage. Why? I always thought that one of the perks of being a gay man is that we never had to tie ourselves down with a wife. Now that gay marriage is legal, every fag in town is looking at wedding rings. It makes no sense.”


Justin felt like he’d been kicked in the gut. He wasn’t anxious to walk down the aisle immediately, but he always felt that one day he and Brian would marry. “What’s wrong with wanting to stand before your friends and family and profess your undying love to one another?”


“What for? Take Eric and Dane? Why do they have to stand in front of us and profess their undying love? We know they’re in love. They have been together for six years, lived together for almost five years, and are raising their kids together. Spending a fortune on a wedding to tell us all what we already know is ridiculous.”


“But…you’re Dane’s best man. How can you say all that and still stand up next to him?”


“I agreed to be his best man because he’s a good friend and he asked me to do it. If he believes in marriage, then more power to him. I can support him as a friend even though I don’t agree with his views. I’m not the one who has to take the vows. I like what we have better. We’re together because we want to be, not because we have to be.”


Justin could feel the back of his eyes begin to burn and knew he needed to get away before he broke down in front of Tony. “You know what? I don’t think I can go get ice cream. I have a lot more to do on the painting I’m working on, and I don’t want to lose my mojo. You guys have fun.”


Brian waited until Justin was gone and then turned to Tony. “Was it something I said?”


“Really dude? You have to ask?” Tony replied and then shook his head as he got back to his homework.


As soon as Justin was in his studio, he began pacing the spacious room. He and Brian hadn’t really spoken too much about marriage before, but he never imagined that the possibility of marriage wasn’t going to be an option. The thought of never being able to get married made him sad, and a bit angry. Apparently Brian had strong feelings on the subject, but they were a couple and couples were supposed to discuss important life events before ruling them out. Brian never even asked what his thoughts were before deciding that it wasn’t for them. He continued pacing until he finally heard the front door close, signaling that he was alone in the house and then dropped down on the couch and sighed. He took a couple deep breaths and then grabbed his phone. Jason answered on the second ring. “Brian doesn’t want to get married…ever.”




“Brian doesn’t ever want to get married,” Justin replied.


“Okay…did you propose, and he said no?”


“No, Matt called and told me that he proposed to David last night and of course he said yes. Matt was so excited, and it was…a little contagious, you know? I mean Dane and Eric are planning their day and now Matt and David are going to be planning theirs, so I went out to tell Brian. I got as far as saying that Matt proposed, and he started spewing all this shit about how, now that gay marriage is legal, every fag is looking at wedding rings and he doesn’t understand it. How not being able to get married was a perk to being gay and how he likes what we have better because we’re together because we want to be not because we have to be,” Justin explained as he jumped up and started pacing again. “And it’s not like I want to run out and get married tomorrow, but once they legalized gay marriage, I just always thought that one day we would do it, you know? I looked forward to the day when I could introduce Brian to someone as my husband. And now I just found out that it’s not going to happen. And he never even talked to me about it. He just decided on his own that he doesn’t want it. Shouldn’t that be something that two people decide on together? I’m so mad!”


“I can tell,” Jason said. “Look Jus, if you never talked to Brian about it, you can’t blame him for not knowing how you feel.”


“I know, but if he felt so strongly against marriage, he should have talked to me before just ruling it out. I’m in this relationship, too.”


“I know, and you’re right. It should have been a discussion between the two of you, but you know Brian. He’s kind of a take charge guy. He probably just assumed you felt the same way. What did he say when you told him you don’t agree with his views?”


“I didn’t tell him,” Justin replied. “Tony was there, and I didn’t want to get into a huge discussion in front of a seventh grader. And they were getting ready to go out for ice cream. I just told them that I needed to finish working on one of my paintings.”


“Okay, I think you need to just relax for a bit and wait until you guys can have a conversation before getting too upset. You know Brian, he may have strong opinions on some things, but he loves you and would do anything to make you happy. Once he knows how you feel, I’m sure he’ll reconsider.”


“But I don’t want him to do it because it’s what I want. That’s as bad as me not doing it because that’s what he wants. I want him to want it. I want him to want to marry me, to be my husband, to agree to spend the rest of his life with me in front of our friends and family. It may be stupid, but I want it all. The tuxedos, the flowers, the cheesy vows and first dance as husband and husband. If he doesn’t want it too…”


“If he doesn’t want it too…what?” Jason prodded when Justin didn’t finish his thought. “You wouldn’t consider leaving him, right?”


Justin thought about it for a moment. “No, I don’t think I could leave him even if I wanted to, but I also don’t know if I could be happy being a boyfriend for the rest of my life.”


“Just talk to him. I’m sure you guys will be able to work it out so both of you are happy,” Jason told him.


“I hope you’re right,” Justin said. “Thanks for talking me off the ledge…again.”


“Hey, what are best friends for?” Jason replied. “So, Matt and David are engaged. That should be an interesting wedding.”


“What do you mean?”


“Dude, David is famous, remember? Unless they run off to Vegas and have a quicky ceremony with Elvis, a David Jackson wedding will be a huge event that will end up on the news.”


“Oh shit, I didn’t think about that. I know Matt said he was officially coming out of the closet, regardless of how his father felt, but I wonder if he considered what marrying David Jackson would entail? From what he told me, his proposal was spontaneous,” Justin said.


“I can’t wait to see what happens next,” Jason chuckled.


“I don’t know if they even discussed any details yet. Matt said that they didn’t want to steal Eric and Dane’s thunder, so they aren’t going to get married until at least next year.”


“That’s nice of them,” Jason said. “It feels weird that our friends are getting married, doesn’t it? Sometimes I still feel like we’re in high school, you know? How are we old enough to be getting married? I know I’m a long way off from even considering taking vows.”


“Have you and Zac ever talked about it?”


“We have. We agreed that once the time is right, we’re probably going to just have my parents, Liz, you and Brian come with us to some tropical island and get married on a beach at sunset. Nothing too lavish.”


“What about everybody else? I know Chris and Zan would love to be there. And so would Steve and Dane.”


“I don’t know,” Jason sighed. “I wouldn’t want to make everyone stop what they’re doing to jump on a plane just to see us say I do.”


“Are you kidding? They would love to ‘stop what they’re doing’ to see you guys get married. You know this group. We’re always there for each other.”


“I guess, but we’re a long way off from getting married. I’d like to be out of therapy before that happens,” Jason laughed.


“How’s it going? I know you said that the last couple of weeks were tough.”


“Yeah, Aiden made me relive that night again. It was hard, but I think he was right. I needed it. I think my problem was that after the arrest, I tried to put the whole incident behind me and forget it ever happened, and that was wrong. It did happen. I needed to learn to accept it, not forget it. Now that I’ve done that, I’m starting to feel like the worst is finally over. I can’t explain it, but I feel like this huge weight has been lifted off me.”


“I’m so happy for you,” Justin said. “And I’m so happy that you and Zac were able to start rebuilding your relationship. What’s going on with his job? I know he said he was working remotely for six months and then they were going to reevaluate the situation. Do you think he’s going to be able to stay on past June?”


“Actually, his boss is thrilled with all that he’s managed to do from Arizona and already asked him to stay on. He didn’t need to wait until the six months were over. Zac is flying to California next week to discuss all the details and sign a new contract. His boss said he has a few ideas on how he wants to proceed but he wants to wait until they’re in the same room to discuss them. It’s all Zac’s been able to talk about for the last few days.”


“Good for him. For both of you actually. I’m so glad it’s working out for him.”


“Thanks. Me too,” Jason replied. “Now that you’re calm again, I gotta go. I have a stew simmering on the stove and I want to go check on it. Zac should be here any minute.”


“No problem. I’m working on a painting for my next show and I’m hoping to finish it by the end of the weekend. That will give me ten completed painting, which is what I promised the Bloom Gallery when they reached out to me about a showing.”


“The Bloom Gallery? The one in Pittsburgh?”


“That’s the one. A woman named Lindsay Peterson is an art curator there and has heard about my work from a friend of hers in the business. Apparently she spoke with Sidney Bloom, the owner, and showed him pictures of some of my work and he was impressed. They want to show my work at the art festival they are having in June,” Justin explained.


“Wow Justin, that’s amazing. Have you told my parents yet? They’re huge supporters of the Bloom Gallery.”


“Not yet,” Justin admitted. “You know how I am. I don’t advertise a showing to my family and friends until I meet the requirements, so I know it’s actually going to happen.”


“Jus, when are you going to realize that you’ve made it? You’re not a starving artist anymore. Your work is selling out wherever it gets shown. Your work is actually in demand. Hell, the Sidney Bloom Gallery reached out to you. Growing up you always talked about having your work on display there and now you’re going to. You’re an amazing artist and you need to remember that.”


“Okay, okay. I’ll call your mom and dad tomorrow, I promise. Now go check on your dinner and I’ll talk to you later. Love you.


“Love you, too,” Jason replied with a chuckle. His best friend was so talented. He wondered what it would take to get him to believe it.






Jason had just put down his phone when he heard the sound of a key in his lock. He smiled to himself as he walked over to welcome Zac. They had decided early on that despite their history, they were going to treat their relationship like it was brand new, which meant they would continue to live separately until they were sure they were both ready for more. Of course, that didn’t mean that they didn’t have sleepovers a couple nights a week, and this was one of those nights. Zac had been working long days trying to put together some ideas to take with him when he went to California, so they hadn’t seen each other in five days. Jason had really missed having Zac around. Talking on the phone each night was just not enough.


“Hey babe,” Zac said as he walked through the door and into Jason’s arms. “It’s so good to see you. I’ve missed you this week.”


“I was just thinking the same thing,” Jason replied before kissing his boyfriend silly. He knew his stew had to be ready, but suddenly food was the last thing on his mind. Unfortunately, Zac’s phone went off, potentially ruining their plans. “Oh no, do you have to answer that right now? Or could you possibly let it go to voicemail and call whoever it is back in say…thirty minutes?”


Zac laughed as he pulled his phone out of his pocket. “Boy, ever since you got past most of your intimacy issues, you’ve become a sex fiend.” Zac glanced down at his phone. “It’s my mom. Let me see what she wants. I just talked to her a couple hours ago and she knew I was coming here for dinner.”


“Okay, I’ll go check on dinner…but hurry up.” Jason laid a quick kiss on Zac’s lips and then went into the kitchen. He checked on their meal and turned down the heat, satisfied that it would be okay while they went off to the bedroom for a bit. He turned around and jumped at the site of Zac in the doorway. “Oh, you scared me. I didn’t hear you come in. Is everything alright?”


“Um, yeah. My mother just got a call from her realtor. She already got an offer on the house,” Zac replied softly.


Jason could see the shock on his boyfriend’s face and knew he wasn’t happy. Zac thought his mother was crazy for putting the house on the market. Gary had only been gone for four months, and he felt that she needed more time before making such a big decision. “Wow, that was fast. Didn’t it just officially go on the market like, three days ago?”


“Exactly! I can’t believe she wants to sell it to begin with. My dad loves that house!”


“Z, your dad loved that house. Past tense. I’m sorry, but your dad isn’t here anymore and after talking with your mother last week…it’s just too hard for her to be in the house they bought and made into a home together before you were born. She always imagined they would grow old together in that house and now that he’s gone, it just makes her sad to be there without him. You need to talk to her and tell her you understand. She’s so worried that you are going to resent her for selling it,” Jason told him.


Zac was a little surprised. “She told you that? When?”

“Last week when we had dinner with her. You went upstairs to take a business call, remember? She confided in me that she knew you were upset that she wanted to sell the house, but that she just felt it was what she needed to be able to move on. I don’t know, I think I can see where she’s coming from. When I was still living in our apartment after we broke up and you moved out, I used to sit in the living room and think about all the good times we had there and it hurt, you know? And you didn’t die. You just left. I still had hope that one day we would find a way to be together again, but your mom doesn’t have that. She needs to find a place where she can make new memories without your dad. It’s still going to be hard for her and she’s still going to think about him and remember the good times, but at least she won’t see him everywhere she turns.”


“I guess you’re right,” Zac sighed. “I just hate to think of not having our house to go home to, you know? Whenever something terrible happened to me, I always knew I had a safe haven to go to.”


“And you still will, it’ll just be at a different location. Babe, your safe haven wasn’t the house, it was the people in it. Now your mom will live somewhere else and if you ever need a safe haven, you’ll find it there.”


“I sound like a child, don’t I?”


“No,” Jason assured him. “You sound like a man who just suffered a terrible loss a few months ago and isn’t really looking for things to change just yet, but your mother is. She needs the change to start to heal a bit. You need to accept it and support her as much as possible. I know you lost your dad but let’s face it, we all go through life knowing that one day we will have to say goodbye to our parents. It’s the cycle of life. But Liz…she’s a woman who lost the love of her life long before she should have. The man she was supposed to grow old with. What she needs now is the love and support of her only child. If you need to cry or vent, I’m here. You can always talk to me, but when you’re with your mom, go easy on her. She’s been trying to hide how devastated she is from you, but losing your dad has taken a toll on her. She needs you now more than ever.”


“How do you know more about my mother than I do?”


Jason chuckled. “Well, for one thing…I’m not mourning the loss of my dad. I loved Gary, but he’s your father not mine so I can be more objective through all of this and see things that you might not be able to see. And…if you remember correctly, I’m working as a counselor while I get my PhD in psychology? If I can’t figure out what’s going on with you and your mom, I’m wasting my time.”


“Point taken,” Zac laughed as he pulled Jason to him and hugged him tight. “Thanks for loving me and my parents. It’s been nice to have you back in my life through all this.”


“Well, I wish I didn’t have to help you both through losing Gary, but there’s nowhere else I’d rather be.”


Talking about Gary and Liz seemed to cool down the mood a bit, so Jason focused on serving their dinner, then they sat at the small dining room table and talked about the old days. Jason’s libido was back and stronger than ever, but the quiet moments the two of them shared meant more to him than anything else. He was so happy that they found a way to be together again.




End of part 12


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