Now That You’re Here: Life Moves On


Chapter 15






Zander said goodbye to Justin, and then got back to work. Having the barbeque meant he didn’t have time to stop by the hospital to check on Matt, so he called Justin to check in. They were still waiting for test results, but according to David, he was pretty banged up. Zan told Justin to invite everyone over for the barbeque and then got back to work. He was just finishing up the prep work when Brian walked through the door.


“I have never been so happy to see you walk through the door in my life,” he said as he grabbed Brian and hugged him tight.


“I’ve never been so happy to walk through the door,” Brian laughed as he hugged Zander back. “Today was a nightmare that I hope to never have to go through again.”


“Well, I have everything prepped and ready for tonight, so how about we sit down in the living room and we can talk about it.”


Brian nodded and headed into the living room. He dropped down on the love seat and sighed. He knew he was going to have to tell Zan the story of what happened and he didn’t really want to. Of course, he’d probably have to share the details again at the barbeque. He knew Justin and his friends were going to be curious too.


“Zan, it was so scary. I had my class in the library. They were supposed to be looking for a book to do their final paper on. We had only been in there for a few minutes when I heard some screams and a couple gunshots. I wasn’t sure what to do at first. My brain told me to go see what was going on, but luckily my training kicked in and I focused on getting my class to a safe place. It felt like we were in there forever. I’m not really sure how long it all lasted. Can you believe, out of 26 students, not one of them broke my rules and kept their phone in their pocket? I felt well respected and stupid at the same time. On Monday, I’m going to amend my classroom rules. From now on, I want my students to keep their cell phones in their pockets for times like that, although hopefully none of us will ever go through something like that again. I felt so helpless. Like I should have been doing something, you know?”


“You were doing something. You were keeping 26 kids safe from a crazed gunman. So, I heard it was the shop teacher?”


“Yeah, poor Willie,” Brian replied. “I still can’t believe it. He has to be one of the nicest people on the payroll. Well, I thought he was. It goes to show that you don’t ever really know what someone is capable of.”


“No, you don’t. Something must have happened to make him snap suddenly.”


“Yeah, he’s been out on leave. According to Kathleen, his wife left him and he started drinking too much. He was even coming into work smelling like alcohol. Johnson found out and told him he could either take a leave and get himself together or be fired. He came in today looking for Johnson. That’s really all I know.”


“How sad,” Zander said. “I’m just happy more people weren’t hurt. And I’m extremely happy you’re alright. How are you feeling about it all?”


“I don’t know yet. I might have to get back to you on that one,” Brian chuckled. “I will say that I’m thankful Kathleen is going to be okay. I’m also very worried about Matt. And I’m trying not to think about poor Willie, who is now sitting in jail and probably will be for a very long time. I don’t want to hate him. I want to feel bad for him, but I don’t think I’m ready yet.”


Zan smiled. “And that’s perfectly understandable. You’ll get there. And remember that I’m here whenever you need to talk. Even if it’s in the middle of the night. Call me if you need to. Promise?”


“I promise.”


Before anything more could be said, the front door slammed and Sophia raced into the living room, followed by Kaleb.


“Oh my God, Brian. I’m so happy to see you. Are you okay?”


Brian smiled as he jumped up just in time to have his arms filled with a teenage girl. “I’m okay, Soph. I was completely safe the whole time.”


“We heard about the shooting during fourth period and tried calling everyone, but we got caught with our phones out in class and they were taken away,” Kaleb explained. “We didn’t get them back until the end of the day and we decided to just race over here…making sure to abide by all traffic safety laws as we went, of course.”


“Of course,” Zan laughed. “Sorry to scare you, Sophia. I knew you were in class and I was hoping you wouldn’t hear about it before you got home.”


“Yeah, squirt. Our Librarian was injured a bit, but she is going to be fine. And Matt is at the hospital right now, but he’s going to be okay, too. No one else was injured.”


“Matt?” Sophia exclaimed as she pulled back and looked between Brian and Zander. “What happened to Matt? Was he shot?”


“No, he just got a little banged up. I’m sure he’s going to be just fine,” Zander replied. “Oh, and Chris is on his way home for a few days.”


“He is?”


Zander loved seeing the sheer joy on his sister’s face at the thought of Chris coming home. “Yes he is. He should be landing around four in the morning. I’ll try to get him home in enough time to have a quick breakfast with you before you head off to school.”


“What if I just don’t go to school? I haven’t missed many days this year.”


“I think it’s best if you go to school and see him after. He’s going to be exhausted after traveling for over 15 hours. He’ll probably come home and sleep away a good part of the day.”


“Fine,” Sophia sighed. She knew there was no use in arguing. “Where’s Justin? Is he at the hospital with Matt?”


“Yeah, he went over with David. By the way, we’re having a barbeque here tonight for everyone. Could you do me a favor and let Trevor know? Tell him he can bring the twins as well.”


“Well now that I know everyone is okay, we’re heading over to Benji and Brad’s. I’ll let them all know.”


“Thanks, and again, I’m sorry you were worried. Next time something is going on, I’ll text you regardless of where you are so you don’t have to hear it from someone else,” Zan assured her.


“How about if everyone stays out of harm’s way so it’s not an issue anymore?” Sophia teased.


“I’m with you on that one,” Brian agreed. He pulled Sophia into another hug. “Thanks for worrying about me.”


“Love you,” she whispered as she hugged him tight.


“Love you, too,” Brian replied before pulling away. “Now go have fun with your friends. We’ll see you in a couple hours.”


Once Sophia and Kaleb were gone, Brian dropped down on the loveseat and smiled. “She’s such a great kid. You and Chris did a good job with her.”


“Nah, she just came like that,” Zan told him.


“No she didn’t. Justin came like that. I was mostly grown up when I came here. She was nine years old and saw things that could have sent her down the wrong path in life. You and Chris taking her in without giving it a second thought and raising her to be the young woman she’s becoming was a wonderful thing. I hope one day Justin and I can help to create a wonderful human being like you guys did.”


“You and Justin? Have you talked about raising children? I would have thought…”


“That I didn’t want kids because I didn’t see the point of getting married?” Brian finished for him. “Is that what Justin told you?”


“No, Justin didn’t even mention kids,” Zan told him. “He just mentioned you didn’t want to get married. I just assumed the rest, I guess. He’s been pretty upset.”


“Look, I really don’t see the point of getting married. Justin and I are as good as married now. We don’t need a piece of paper to prove our love for each other. You and Chris didn’t have a ceremony. Do you consider yourselves any less married because you don’t have a piece of paper to prove it?”


“No, of course not. We discussed getting married, and for now, we decided that we don’t need it. We’ve been together for so many years now, getting married wouldn’t change a thing between us. But we had a few serious discussions about it before making the decision to leave things as they are. You need to talk to Justin if you feel that strongly about not getting married. It has to be a decision you both agree on. You can’t assume that he feels the same as you do. And you need to decide how important it is for you not to get married, because I’m pretty sure getting married is very important to Justin. You guys are going to have to work through this and find a way for you both to be happy.”


“Actually, we don’t need to talk about it at all,” Brian assured him as he reached into his pocket and pulled out a small box, holding it up to show Zander.


“Is that what I think it is?”


“I had no idea Justin was so set on getting married. We talked about being together forever a million times when we first realized we loved each other, but marriage never came up. I honestly didn’t know how important it was to him until the other night. I planned on talking to him about it since then, but we just haven’t really had a lot of time lately. This morning…I was locked away in a closet with my students, not knowing what was going to happen when it hit me. No, I don’t feel the need to prove my love for Justin with a piece of paper, but if that’s what he needs to feel secure, then I can give it to him. I’d give him anything to make him happy. I stopped at the jewelry store on the way here. I’m going to propose to him tonight.”


“Wow,” Zan replied as he got up and went over to Brian, pulling him up and into a hug. “I guess congratulations are in order.”


Brian laughed. “Not yet. He could always turn me down.”


“No he couldn’t. He loves you too much to ever say no. Now, about raising children…have you and Justin talked about that? I don’t know, I guess I never thought you would want kids. You weren’t even sure if you should go into teaching, remember?”


“Yeah, I remember,” Brian replied sadly. “I was stupid enough to believe all the bullshit Jack Kinney threw my way. I’m older now, and a lot wiser. To be a good dad, you just need love, patience, and understanding and I have that. I learned it from watching you and Chris all these years. I think I’d make a pretty good dad, and I know that Justin will be amazing. And no, Justin and I haven’t really discussed it yet, but I know he’ll be on board with it as well. But one thing at a time. First, we have to get married. I wouldn’t want to have a child out of wedlock.”


Zander laughed. “No, you wouldn’t want that. Now, why don’t you help me set everything up in the backyard? We have a barbeque to throw.”






By 6:30 p.m., the barbeque was in full swing. Matt and David couldn’t make it. They were still at the hospital waiting for more tests, but Matt insisted that Justin didn’t need to sit at his bedside and told him to let everyone know that he was fine and would be back on his feet in no time. Eric decided to skip out on the restaurant for the night and attend the barbeque with Dane and the girls. Shane really was doing a great job in the kitchen and Eric was only a phone call away if he was needed. After working so much when the place first opened, it felt nice to know he could take a night off at a moment’s notice without worry.


Everyone was scattered around the yard having fun when Aiden appeared alongside Zander.


“Hey, how’re you holding up?”


Zander chuckled. “I’m fine now. Sorry again for my little meltdown. Thinking about Brian being in danger like that really freaked me out.”


“Of course it did,” Aiden replied. “Anyone in your shoes would have been freaking out. That’s normal. What worries me is your need to always been the strong one in control. Other than Sophia, everybody you care about is an adult. You don’t have to always be the ‘parent’. You are allowed to just feel what everyone is feeling. You’re allowed to show your fears as much as they are. Stop trying to always hold it together.”


“Yeah, I know. I promise I’ll do better next time; although hopefully there won’t be a next time for something like this.” Zander got quiet for a moment.


“What’s going on in that head of yours?”


“It’s scary, isn’t it? Being a parent. Constantly worrying that something bad is going to happen to your children, no matter how old they are.”


“Please don’t remind me. I’m going to be a dad in a couple of months and the closer we get to De’s due date, the more freaked out I get,” Aiden laughed.


“Anything you want to talk about?”


“No, not really. I mean, I've never really even held a baby, much less taken care of one, so the thought of being handed an infant that I’m going to be responsible for is terrifying. Then again, I imagine that most people feel like that when they are about to become parents for the first time. I don’t think there’s anything you could say to take away the fear. I just have to accept it and focus on the joy I feel at being given the opportunity to be a dad. As you know, when you’re growing up and realize your gay, it makes a guy feel like parenthood might be out of the question. I feel very blessed. I refuse to let my fears take away from that.”


“Good. I know it’s scary, but you definitely shouldn’t let your fears stop your excitement. This is such a great thing that’s happening. You should be excited. I think I’m still kind of jealous of you guys. Chris and I have helped to raise three kids, but we never got to start at the beginning. We missed out on all the firsts…rolling over, smiling, laughing, talking, walking. Sometimes I wish we looked into surrogacy; you know? Had an actual baby to raise.”


“You know, it’s not too late. Have you talked to Chris about it?”


“No,” Zander admitted. “Chris is already in his forties and I’m not that far behind him. I don’t know if a baby is in the cards for us, even if it’s something Chris would want.”


“Why not? These days people are having kids later and later in life. I think you and Chris would enjoy starting over again. And then our children could grow up together,” Aiden teased.


“Yeah, don’t hold your breath,” Zan laughed.


Before anything more could be said, Brian called everyone’s attention to him and Justin, who were standing on the opposite end of the yard. Zander knew what was coming and gave them his full attention.


“Justin,” Brian began. “We’ve been together for a long time, aside from those few months when I was a total dick to you, and what I learned in all that time is that I love you more than anyone else on this earth and I can’t imagine my life without you in it.”


“I love you, too,” Just replied, his face turning red from the attention.


Brian took that moment to drop down on one knee and pull the box from his pocket. “Will you marry me?”


Justin didn’t know how to respond. “Um…why are you doing this?”


“Because I love you and want to spend the rest of my life with you.”


“But the other night…”


“The other night I was an idiot,” Brian said, stopping Justin before he could continue. “Today while I was locked away in that closet, I realized that getting married may not be important to me, but it’s important to you and I would do anything to make you happy. I would happily and proudly be your husband, if that’s what you want. Let’s stand up in front of our friends and family and profess our undying love. What do you say?”


Justin could feel the tears running down his face. “Yes, of course.”


Brian jumped up and took Justin in his arms, kissing him deeply as everyone in the yard cheered and made their way over to congratulate the couple. If anyone were to ask Justin later, he would say it was the best moment of his life.







Trent settled down in bed and smiled. He only had one more day before he could fly home, two more until he could see Kaleb. He missed his son more than he thought he would, but he had been given the opportunity to be a speaker at a programming seminar his company was holding in North Carolina and he couldn’t pass it up. He was still fairly new at the job, but he worked hard and learned fast, quickly moving up in the ranks. He had only been working there for six months when he was put in charge of his own ten-person team. It was an honor and he vowed to impress his boss with his ability to be a leader. And that he did, which was why he was now in North Carolina, almost 2,000 miles away from his home. He was just about to order room service and turn on the TV to see if he could find some mindless entertainment when his phone dinged, signaling a text message. He smiled when he saw who it was from and bypassed texting for a phone call.


“Miss me already? I’ve only been gone for a few days.”


“Oh, did you go somewhere? I didn’t realize,” Dylan teased.


Trent laughed. It was weird, he and Dylan only met a few weeks earlier, yet it seemed as if they had known each other a lot longer. On the night they met, they had made plans to go hiking that weekend, just the two of them, so they could get to know each other without Maddie there as a buffer. Because of that, Dylan had sent a few texts on the days leading up to the hike, which helped to break the ice. Then, while they were hiking together, they seemed to bond over their work, their childhood (Dylan was also adopted) and their mutual love of old movies. By the time the hike was over, Trent felt as if he had known Dylan his whole life. Since then, they had been texting almost every day. In fact, Trent communicated more with Dylan than Maddie. He wasn’t sure what was going to happen between the three of them just yet. Despite their connection, there was still the matter of Trent being straight, but at least he genuinely liked the man. That would definitely make it easier if they were to try to take the next step.


“Weirdo. What’s going on?”


“Nothing,” Dylan replied. “Maddie’s working nights this weekend and I’m bored. When are you coming home?”


“I won’t be home until tomorrow night. My flight leaves here at 3:30 p.m. eastern time and lands around 5:00 p.m. our time.”


“Do you want me to pick you up from the airport? Maybe we could grab a drink? I’ve got absolutely nothing to do.”


“Sure. My parents will still have Kaleb. They are taking him and his girlfriend to see a show. I’m not picking him up until Saturday morning,” Trent told him.


“Cool. I don’t want to sit at home by myself again tomorrow.”


“Dude, don’t you have any friends?” Trent asked. He never had to worry about being bored. There was always someone around in his circle of friends to hang out with.


“Not really. I’ve only been here a few years, remember? And being poly…well, I spent most of my time bouncing between two relationships. Who had time for friends? I was either with Maddie or Luke.”


“Hmm, I never thought about that. We’ll have to rectify the situation. I’ll introduce you to my friends. You’ll love them and there’s a lot of them so we’re never bored. Someone is always ready to hang out,” Trent assured him.


Dylan paused.


“What? Did I say something wrong? You don’t have to meet my friends if you don’t want to. It’s just a suggestion.”


“No, I was just thinking. If you introduce me to your friends…how would that go? Does anyone know about our…situation?”


“Only Brian. He’s probably the one I’m closest to right now and the one I was sure wouldn’t judge me for what we’re doing. He promised not to tell anyone else, even his boyfriend. As far as anyone would know, you’re just a friend of mine. You and Maddie both. I mean, we’re starting to spend a lot of time together and if I don’t bring you both around, they’re all going to think I’m hiding something.”


“But we are…hiding something, I mean. How will this work? How are you going to introduce us? Are Maddie and I going to be a couple? Or are you and Maddie going to be a couple? Maybe we should wait on the introductions.”


“Okay, why are you freaking out? That’s supposed to be my thing,” Trent chuckled.


“I don’t know. I never had to deal with this before because as soon as Mads and I decided to try poly, we told everyone we knew. We never had to hide what we were doing.”


Trent hadn’t thought about what he would be asking of them when it came to their relationship. “I’m sorry. I hadn’t really thought of the position I would be putting you and Maddie in. I just don’t want anyone to know what’s going on with us until we decide what we’re doing.”


“Okay, let me ask you something then. There’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot this week while you’ve been gone and I wasn’t sure if I was going to talk to you about it yet, but now…I think I should. I know we are in the very early stages of this, and with you being straight, I am well aware that we might end up not moving forward, and that’s fine. It would suck. I think you’re really hot and I’m starting to enjoy our budding friendship, but if you’re not interested, then game over. I know that, but what happens then? I don’t think I’ll be happy if I lose your friendship, and I don’t think Maddie would be either.”


“I…I don’t know. I guess I haven’t really thought about it. I’ve been focusing on getting to know you, and I’m enjoying our friendship, too. More than I thought I would this early on. I guess…if things don’t work out, we just find a way to stay friends. It would probably be awkward at first, but if we want to stay friends, I’m sure we can find a way to make it work. And I have to say, I really hate that our fate all comes down to me and what I’m comfortable with. I think I was kind of hoping that you and I wouldn’t hit it off, you know? Then I wouldn’t have to be the one to kill whatever it is we are trying to do.”


“Okay,” Dylan began. “Well let me ask you this. Now that we’re several weeks in, how are you feeling about things? Are you still 100% not interested?”


“Truthfully?” Trent asked and then took a moment to think about what Dylan was asking. “I’m not sure, but I don’t think so. Not 100% at least. It’s hard to know for sure though, you know? I like you. I like hanging out with you. I love our ever-growing text thread. And when I think about being with a man, I’m still not interested. But with you…it’s more complicated. I don’t think I know how to wrap my head around it; you know? Because you’re not just a guy. You’re my friend. Someone who is becoming very important to me. It’s different, in a way. Am I making any sense?”


“Yeah, I get it,” Dylan replied. “Can we try something? Do you trust me?”


“Of course.”


“Okay, do me a favor and lay down on your bed and close your eyes. Try to clear your mind of everything and everyone but me. Pretend I’m there with you. It’s just the two of us. We’ve been hanging out for a few hours. Maybe had a couple of drinks and you’re extremely relaxed. Alright? Do you feel relaxed?”


“Yeah, I actually do.”


“Okay, now imagine that I put my hand on your leg. Gentle, not rough. I’m just gently rubbing your thigh with my hand. And then…I lean down and kiss you. Gentle again, nothing rough. I just lightly place my lips on yours. What’s the first thing that pops into your head. Do you want to push me away, or do you want to deepen the kiss?”


Trent considered what Dylan was asking and was surprised by the first thing that popped into his head. He opened his eyes and stared at the ceiling. “I wanted to deepen the kiss.”






“Okay then,” Dylan said softly with a smile on his face. “I guess it’s safe to say that you are definitely not at 100%.”


“I guess it is.”


“And on that note, I’m going to say goodbye. I will be at the airport tomorrow night to pick you up. Then we’ll go grab those drinks. We might both need it by then. Just do me a favor. If you start freaking out at any point between now and then, call me. I’m a really good listener.”


“No problem. You’re one of the only people I could call if I was freaking out, but you know what? I’m not freaking out. I was surprised by my thoughts, but not freaked out. I will say goodbye though. It’s getting late here and I still haven’t eaten yet. I will text you before I board my flight so you know we’re on time and then I’ll see you tomorrow night.”


“You got it. See you tomorrow.”


Once the call ended, Trent called down for room service. The last thing he wanted to do was run into anyone he knew at the hotel restaurant. He had a lot to think about it. After his order was placed, he took a quick shower, laid out his clothes for the following day and then packed up what he wouldn’t need. He had to check out first thing in the morning and then leave his bags with the front desk so that he could finish up with the seminar before heading to the airport. Then he turned on the TV and found The Big Bang Theory. Nothing kept him distracted as much as that show. His food came soon after and he ate while watching TV. He was just trying to keep his mind occupied until after his nightly phone call with Kaleb. Once that was over, he could lay down in his bed and contemplate where his thoughts were and what he planned to do next.


Of course, those thoughts, once he allowed them to penetrate his brain, kept him up half the night and by the time he had fallen asleep, he had only determined one thing. He needed to figure things out before the three of them ended up hurt.







Chris looked at his watch for the tenth time, anxiously waiting for the door to open so they all could make their way off the plane. It was four in the morning in Arizona and due to the time difference and the long travel he had been awake for almost 31 hours. Knowing that his brother had been in danger and there was nothing he could do caused an uncomfortable feeling in his chest that wouldn’t go away. It was why he did what he did and hopped on the first flight he could get to bring him back to the States. He needed to see his brother; he needed to see his entire family. Todd had not been happy with his change of plans, but he didn’t care.


Twenty minutes later he was walking off the plane and making his way through the airport. He was happy that the airport wasn’t crowded at that time of day. It would make it easier to find Zander. He made it through security without any issues. The customs agent who helped him was a fan and recognized him immediately. Once that was done, he headed towards baggage claim. He scanned the large room and felt the uncomfortable feeling in his chest begin to ease as his eyes landed on his favorite blond, along with his other favorite blond and his little brother. He didn’t expect them all to be waiting for him and ignored the dampness that pooled around his eyes as he ran over and was swallowed up by a group hug.


“You guys are a sight for sore eyes,” he whispered.


“Babe, I’m so happy you’re here,” Zander replied, his voice filled with emotion.


They continued to hug for another few moments before breaking apart. Then Chris grabbed Brian alone and hugged him tight. “I was so fucking scared.”


“Me too,” Brian admitted. “But I was never in any danger. We were completely safe.”


“Why don’t we grab your luggage and get out of here,” Justin suggested. “You must be exhausted.”

“I’ve never been so tired in my entire life,” Chris replied. “I’m assuming my little pumpkin is home in bed?”


“Yeah, she wanted to come with us, but there was no point in waking her up. I told her you would have breakfast with her before she went to school,” Zander told him as he grabbed one of Chris’s bags off the conveyer belt. “Is that alright?”


“Of course. As tired as I am, I wouldn’t dream of going to sleep before seeing my girl,” Chris assured him then broke out in a yawn. “But after we eat, I’m climbing in our bed and sleeping for a week.”


Zander chuckled. “I know you’re tired, but sleeping for a week? You’re not even going to be in the States that long? How long was Todd able to put off the next signing?”


“Actually, he put it off forever. I’m not going back.”


All three men stopped what they were doing and stared at Chris. Zander spoke up first. “You’re not going back? But…what about the rest of the tour? You’re only two months in. You have four more to go.”


“Not anymore, blondie. I told Todd I couldn’t be away from my family anymore and if he had a problem with that, then he could find another author to take my place. When I was on my way to the airport, before I heard that Brian was safe, all I could think about was how if something happened to him…” he couldn’t continue.


“It’s okay, Chris. I’m okay,” Brian reassured him.


“I know. I just didn’t like being so far away and it’s not going to happen again. I could walk away from writing now and never have to worry about money again. And I have built my career with little to no travel and look how far I got. My fans will either understand or they can find someone else to admire. My traveling days are done. I’m not leaving Arizona again if I can’t be back home in 48 hours, 72 tops.”


“What are you going to tell the fans that already bought tickets to your signings?” Justin asked curiously.


“Well, I had a thought on the plane. Todd only booked a few weeks at a time so I’m technically only missing two weeks of signings. For those who bought tickets, they’re not only going to get a full refund, but I am going to send them all a signed copy of my newest book, which isn’t going to be available until next year. I’ve already finished it and sent it to the publishers so I should be able to get advanced copies in the next couple of months. Hopefully that will help to make up for cancelling the signings. I’m going to make a formal statement online next week, after I’ve caught up on sleep.”


“I feel bad for all the people who thought they were going to get a chance to meet you, but I’m not sorry that you’re not going back,” Zander said.


“Yeah, things around here weren’t the same without you,” Justin said.


“It’s good to be back. Now let’s get out of here. I can’t wait to get home.”


The drive from the airport was long and by the time they pulled in the driveway, all four men were ready for bed. Justin, Brian and Zander had to leave for the airport in the middle of the night so they didn’t get any sleep. As they got the bags out of the car, Sophia came running out and jumped into Chris’s arms.


“Hey Pumpkin, how’s my girl?”


“I missed you so much,” she cried as she held on tight. “What happened at the school yesterday sucked, but I’m so happy it got you to come home.”


“Me too, kiddo. Me too,” Chris said as his eyes once again became damp with unshed tears. “Now, I believe we are supposed to be having breakfast before you have to go to school?”


“Yep,” Sophia replied. “Zan and I made your favorite breakfast casserole last night before I went to bed. I woke up early so I could put it in the oven and get ready for school. It should be done in about ten minutes.”


Chris looked at Sophia in shock. “Who are you and what have you done with my lazy teenager who never wants to get up before noon?”


“I wanted to make sure I had time to see you before I had to leave,” Sophia giggled. “Come on, I just brewed fresh coffee for everybody.”


Zander watched Sophia run back into the house and turned to Chris. “Wow babe, maybe you should go away more often if it’s going to make Soph wake herself up in the morning, make breakfast and coffee.”


“Sorry babe. You’re not getting rid of me again.”


Zander couldn’t help but smile. “I really like the sound of that. Now let’s go eat.”






Matt could hear the faint beeping sounds breaking through his slumber and was reminded of his current situation. And if that wasn’t enough of a reminder, a small stretch and the pain that shot through his body at the movement would be enough to bring the events of the day before back quickly. He let out a soft moan and suddenly felt someone take his hand. He slowly opened his eyes and saw David standing at his side looking concerned.


“Are you okay? Do you want me to go get your nurse? I think you’re almost due for more pain medication.”

“I’m okay,” he whispered softly. “My mind wanted to stretch, but my body definitely did not. What time is it?”


“It’s just after seven.”


“Why are you still here? You should be home getting some rest,” Matt replied.


“I wanted to make sure you were okay,” David replied. “I dozed off for an hour or so in the chair.”


Matt chuckled, and then moaned again. “Babe, I’m in a hospital surrounded by doctors and nurses. I’ll be fine here for a little while without you. Why don’t you go home and get some rest? You have a fundraiser tomorrow, remember? You can’t spend all your time here.”




“No, no buts. Just go home and get some rest. You heard the doctor last night. They want to keep me for at least a couple of days. I promise to be a good patient, stay in bed, and call a nurse if I need anything, but you need to rest and get back to work. I don’t want to be the reason something goes wrong with the fundraiser.”


“Fine,” David conceded. “I’ll go home and get a few hours of sleep, but then I’ll be back. The fundraiser is already planned and ready to go. That’s why I’ve been working so much lately. To put everything in place. Gina can hold down the fort today and call me if she needs me. I’ll be back in a little while, okay?”




“No, no buts…remember?” David chuckled as he leaned down and kissed Matt’s forehead. “Get some more rest. I’ll see you in a bit.”


Matt watched his fiancé walk out the door and then sighed. He had been trying to get David to leave since the night before, but he refused. And it wasn’t that he didn’t want the company. Being stuck in a hospital, unable to get up on his own was pretty scary. He would much rather have someone there with him. He just knew that David had been working non-stop for the upcoming fundraiser and he didn’t want to be the reason it didn’t run smoothly. Especially since it was his fault he was in the hospital to begin with. Well, not entirely his fault. Willie Jenkinson played a huge part in what happened, but Matt didn’t have to be the one to take Willie down. In fact, after the incident right before Christmas, he promised David that he would be more careful when he was on duty. And he was. But yesterday, everything happened so fast. He saw Jenkinson raise his gun towards Johnson and didn’t have time to think about anything other than stopping the shooter before he pulled the trigger, and he managed that. Unfortunately, Jenkinson wasn’t going down without a fight and at approximately 300 pounds, it wasn’t exactly a fair fight. The most important thing was that other than a superficial wound to the Librarian, no one else was hurt. They couldn’t ask for a better outcome. And Matt would eventually heal. All broken bones did eventually. It was just going to be a long road to recovery.


A commotion in the hall pulled him from his thoughts. It was his father, trying to use his position as chief of police to gain access to his room before visiting hours had begun. A part of him hoped that it wouldn’t work. The last thing he needed was to have his father come in and somehow blame him for what had happened. Unfortunately, as with most people, the nurses couldn’t stop him from doing exactly what he set out to do. Suddenly his father strode into his room and to his bedside.


“Hi dad.”


“Hey kid, how are you feeling?”


“I’m doing okay. A few broken bones, a punctured lung, but all in all, I’m going to be fine. How did you hear?”


“Andrew called me this morning. He assumed I knew. I mean, why wouldn’t he assume that your parents would be informed that you were injured on the job?” his father bellowed. “Your mother is beside herself. She wanted to come with me, but she’s been taking care of the neighbor’s cat since she went out of town and wanted to go check on the thing first. She’ll be here shortly.”


“Dad, I’m a grown man. I don’t need my mommy and daddy rushing to my bedside. I’m going to be fine. Besides, David was here with me the entire time. He just left about 15 minutes ago because I insisted he needed to go home and get some rest. I somehow doubt you would have wanted to sit here with him.”


“You would have chosen to have him here over your own parents?”


“His name is David, and yes, I would. When are you going to accept that I’m gay? David and I have been together for six years. Hell, we’re engaged!”




“I asked David to marry me a few weeks ago and he said yes. We’re planning a 2024 wedding. Should I put you on the guest list?” Matt knew he was being an ass. He planned on waiting for the right time to tell his parents he was getting married, but his father just made him so mad sometimes. “I’m tired of bending over backwards to make you happy. I’m not doing it anymore. I’m gay. You can either accept me for who I am or you can fuck off!”


Just then his nurse walked in, having obviously overheard their yelling. “Is everything alright in here? Chief, as I mentioned before, visiting hours don’t start for another 40 minutes. Maybe it would be best if you left and came back later.”


Matt watched as his father nodded to the nurse and walked away without so much as a goodbye to his son. Matt sighed once he was gone. “I’m sorry about that. My father can be pretty hard to handle.”


“No need for you to apologize for his lack of manners. Can I get you anything before I get back to giving my report?”


“No, I’m good. Thanks for coming in and interrupting. I really wasn’t up for him this morning.”


“No problem at all. I’m here to take care of my patients. That’s all I was doing,” the nurse replied. “And sweetie, don’t let him get you down. You hang in there and be a proud gay man. If he doesn’t accept you for who you are, screw him. Homophobic bastard.”


And then she winked at Matt and walked out of the room. His very own Nurse Nightingale.






Brian woke up first and spent about ten minutes watching Justin sleep. They hadn’t really had much time to talk since their engagement the night before. The barbeque lasted until almost midnight despite it being a work night for most of them. By the time they got everything cleaned up and said their goodbyes, it was time to head to the airport. Once they got back to the house and had breakfast, they were completely exhausted. It was decided that they would crash in the spare room upstairs rather than go home, since they were both too tired to drive. Brian had to be at school by 12:30 p.m. A glance at the clock told him it was time to get up if he wanted enough time to go home and shower before work. Three hours of sleep wasn’t enough, but it would have to do.


He tried getting out of bed carefully so that he didn’t wake his fiancé, that sounded weird in his own head, and was halfway to the door when he heard rustling coming from the bed.


“Hey, where are you going?” Justin mumbled, still half asleep.


“I need to go home and shower so I can get to school. Go back to sleep. I shouldn’t be too long. Then we can figure out what to do about dinner. And we haven’t really had a chance to talk about last night.”


“You’re not changing your mind, are you?” Justin asked, only half joking.


“Not on your life,” Brian assured him. “You’re stuck with me until death do us part.”


“That’s fine by me,” Justin replied. “I can come with you now if you want. I can keep you company while you’re getting ready and then nap once you leave.”


Brian shook his head as he walked towards the bed. “No, that’s okay. Just go back to sleep. I’m going to be rushing around so I can get there on time. You might as well stay here and sleep. Text me when you wake up and I’ll let you know when I’ll be done.”


Justin accepted a kiss and then rolled over, immediately falling back to sleep. The next time he woke up, he was alone and a glance at the clock told him it was almost 3:00. He jumped up, went to the bathroom, and then went downstairs in search of anyone who might be home. He found Chris in the kitchen drinking a cup of coffee. From the look on his face, he hadn’t been up very long.


“It is so nice to see you back home,” Justin said as he went to the cabinet and pulled out a mug. He needed coffee in the worst way.


Chris smiled. “It was nice waking up in my own bed after being gone for so long. The only bad part was that I was alone. I found a note on Zan’s pillow saying that he tried to wake me up to say goodbye, but I was out of it. I don’t even remember him leaving. He had a few appointments he wasn’t comfortable cancelling. He said he should be home by 5:30. What are your plans for the day? How long is Brian going to be at work?”


“I have no idea. I heard him leaving a little after 11:00 this morning. He told me he would text me and let me know when he’ll be done, but I haven’t heard anything yet.” Just then his phone dinged. “There he is now. He said he won’t be home until after 5:00. They must be dealing with a lot of the aftermath from yesterday. Brian never works this late unless he has parent/teacher conferences.”


“Well, since we are both free for the next few hours, what do you say we prepare dinner for everyone?” Chris suggested. “I haven’t had a home cooked meal in over two months and you and I haven’t cooked together in what? A few years at least. It will be like old times.”


“That sounds like fun. What do you want to make? I have to run home and shower and change first. I can stop at the market on the way back.”


“Perfect. By the time you get back I will be showered and hopefully feel a little more human. Jet lag is no joke,” Chris laughed as he went in search of his wallet. He pulled out his debit card and tossed it to Justin. “How does Chicken Parm sound? We won’t have your homemade sauce, but I think we can doctor up a jar really good.”


“Sounds good to me. You do know that I’m an adult now and can pay for dinner. I don’t need your card.”


Chris laughed. “I know you can, but it doesn’t feel right letting you pay. I guess some habits are hard to break. Take my card for now and I’ll work on letting you pay for things going forward. Maybe I’ll even let you take me out to lunch one day.”


“Alright, I’ll be back in a bit.”


Justin walked to his car with a smile on his face. He was engaged to the love of his life and his family was finally all back in the same time zone. Life was good.



End of part 15


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