Now That You’re Here: Life Moves On
Matt was numb when he finally walked through the front door. It had been a really rough day. He and his partner had been called to the scene of a domestic violence situation that had ended with the husband killing his wife and three small children before turning the gun on himself. The visions that had been running through his mind all day made him sick and he didn’t know how to shake them off. He loved being a police officer, but he always had a hard time leaving the gore behind him when he worked at a gruesome crime scene, but what he had experienced that morning would probably haunt him for the rest of his life. He definitely liked the drunk and disorderly calls much better.
He walked directly to his office and removed his gun, placing it into the safe before doing anything else. It was his daily ritual. He was adamant about gun safety and liked using the ritual as a way to shed his day. Once the gun was safely locked away, he began stripping off his uniform, but memories of what he had seen began to resurface and nearly knocked the wind out of him. He sat down on the futon that they had kept there, covered his face with his hands and cried for the mother and young children that had lost their lives that morning.
“Oh babe, I’m so sorry,” David said as he walked in and found his partner sobbing. He took the younger man in his arms. “Shhh. It’s okay, I got you. Let it out.”
Matt allowed himself to be cradled in David’s arms as he cried. It was all he could do.
David held Matt for almost twenty minutes before the sobs started to subside. “Easy, sweetheart. Try to take a few deep breaths.”
“How?...how…did…you hear?” Matt stammered.
“Your Uncle Andrew called me and told me what happened. I’m so sorry you had to go through that. Do you want to talk about it?”
“No…it was just…so awful.”
“Okay, you don’t have to say anything. Just know that I’m here if you need to talk. What can I do for you? Are you hungry? Thirsty?”
“No, I’m good.”
“Have you eaten anything at all today?” David asked.
“No…I just can’t right now. I’m still a little sick to my stomach.”
“Okay, why don’t I go fire up the jacuzzi for you? Maybe a good hot soak will help release some of your tension.”
“Yeah, I guess.”
“Want me to join you?”
“Would you…um…” Matt hesitated. “Would you be mad if I said I kind of just want to be alone for a bit? I’m sorry, I know you’re just trying to help.”
“No, of course I won’t be mad. Babe, I just want to help you in whatever way I can. I’ll go start the water and then maybe go into the kitchen and throw together a salad or something so that when you’re ready, you can eat, okay? Maybe make some tea?”
“Thanks,” Matt said as he stood up and started taking off the rest of his uniform. “I love you so much.”
David kissed him softly. “I love you, too. Let me get that water started. I’ll check on you in a little bit.”
Once David got the jacuzzi started, he went into the kitchen and put on the tea kettle and started throwing a salad together. He was grilling up some chicken on their indoor grill when the doorbell rang. He was surprised to see Matt’s uncle at the door. They had only met a few times, back before Matt came out to his family and David was banished from all family gatherings. “Hey, come on in.”
“This is some house you have here. When my brother told me that Matt was staying with a friend of his, I somehow pictured a two-bedroom apartment, not a mansion in the woods.”
David blanched at Andrew’s assumption. When Matt finally came out to his parents after his graduation from the police academy, it had been an awful time for them all. Matt’s mother was devastated, but she insisted that she still loved her son and would find a way to accept his news. His father had been a different story entirely. He had hit the roof, screamed, and yelled and actually took a swing at his own son. Luckily Mark had been there to put a stop to the violence. After days of fighting and pain, it was decided that Matt would keep his sexual orientation a secret and in return, he would still be considered a part of the family. David had been appalled when his boyfriend agreed to the terms set by his homophobic father, but he kept his feelings to himself in hopes that things would eventually settle down. It had been almost a year and a half since then, and Matt was still in the closet. His father had barely spoken a word to him in all that time. When Matt went over to visit his mother, his father usually found a reason to leave the house. On top of that, David was no longer welcome in their house. The stress of the situation had started putting a strain on their relationship, too. Because of David’s celebrity, they rarely went out in public for fear of someone finding out they were a couple. Matt also rarely saw the rest of his family. His grandmother was still there for him, but he kept a pretty safe distance from his grandfather and his uncles for fear of letting something slip, which was why David was surprised to find Andrew at the door. The older man had transferred into the precinct that Matt had been assigned to a few months earlier and Matt had been struggling to keep a distance now that they saw each other almost every day.
“Yeah, well…I like my space,” David chuckled nervously. “Come on in. Can I get you something to drink?”
“Any chance you got some scotch lying around?” Andrew asked as he looked around the large foyer.
“I do, actually. Come into the kitchen with me. I’m making Matt something to eat in hopes that he will actually agree to eat it.”
“How is he?”
“Devastated. I found him sobbing in his office. I tried to console him, but I don’t know that it worked. He’s soaking in the jacuzzi right now.”
“Holy shit!” Andrew exclaimed as he followed David into the kitchen.
“Oh nothing, it’s just that your kitchen is bigger than my entire apartment,” Andrew replied as he looked around. “Sorry, I don’t mean to be rude. It’s just that a place like this isn’t possible on a cop’s salary.”
“I know, I’ve seen Matt’s paychecks” David laughed.
“Anyway, forgive me. I’m really worried about my nephew. I remember my first tender age crime scene. I was probably around Matty’s age, and I still have nightmares about it. I was hoping he wouldn’t have to deal with something like that for a long time.”
David handed over a glass of scotch, pouring one for himself, before flipping the chicken. “Can I ask you something Andrew?”
“How do you do it? I mean, Matt’s every day is tough sometimes. Even before today, I’ve seen some changes in him, you know? And now this? How do you get up every day and go out there knowing that you’re going to see so much ugliness?”
“It’s not always easy, but then something happens that makes it all worth it. I’ve delivered over a dozen babies in my time on the force. Those days are the reason we do this. To help people. We live for the days when we can actually do some good. Does that make sense?”
David thought about the rush he got when he was able to help people and smiled. “Yeah, that makes perfect sense.”
The two men made small talk while David finished up the salad and then went into the living room. David was just getting ready to excuse himself to go check on Matt and warn him of their visitor when Matt walked into the room.
“Babe, by any chance did you remember to pick up more of that soap I…like.” Matt stopped dead in his tracks when he saw his uncle standing by the fireplace with a drink in his hand. “Uncle Andrew…um…what…are you doing here?”
David glanced over at Andrew and knew that he picked up on the endearment, but then focused on Matt. “I did. It’s in the hallway closet. Your uncle stopped by to check on you.”
“How’re you doing, kid?” Andrew asked.
“I’m okay, I guess,” Matt replied as he tried to calm his beating heart. It was bad enough that he had to hide who he was to the world, but now he couldn’t even be himself in his own house? “You didn’t have to come all the way out here. You could have just called me.”
“Matty, I’ve been where you are. I know what you went through today. I didn’t want to just give you a call. I thought we could talk.”
“I don’t really want to talk about it right now, you know? The captain told me that I would need to meet with the district psychologist before my next shift. For now, I would rather just try to forget what happened.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yeah, I appreciate you checking in on me, but I’m okay for now.”
“Okay, then is there something else you want to talk about?” Andrew asked as he looked between the two men.
“Um…I don’t know what you mean?”
“Come on kid, I’m a cop. I’ve been a cop for over twenty years. I’m pretty good at reading people,” Andrew pointed out.
“I think I’ll give you guys a few minutes alone,” David said softly. “Matt, I’ll be in the kitchen if you need me.”
Matt waited until they were alone before he said anything. “Look Uncle Andrew, I’m not renting a room from David, I’m living with him. I’m gay.”
Andrew burst out laughing. “Oh that’s funny! Holy shit, that’s hysterical!”
“Come on kid…your father is one of the biggest homophobic assholes I’ve ever met! The fact that one of his sons is gay! That’s awesome!”
“Uncle Andrew!” Matt was horrified.
“I’m sorry…I’m sorry. I don’t mean to be a jerk. I’m sure being gay in your family hasn’t been easy. I get it. Being gay in mine hasn’t been easy, either.”
“No, it’s been awful. But…wait…you mean you’re gay? How come you never said anything?”
“Probably for the same reason you never said anything. Your father forbid me from telling anyone. He told me that if either you or Mark found out, I would never see you boys again. You two were the light of my life when you were little. I knew I’d never have any kids of my own, so I doted on you both instead. I didn’t even come out until I was almost thirty. I knew there was no way my brothers would be okay with it.”
“Do Uncle Mike and Uncle Tommy…are they homophobic, too?”
“They’re not as bad as your dad. They’ve actually came around a bit in recent years. Hell, Tommy called me the other day and while we were catching up, he actually asked if I was seeing someone. I was shocked. Mike hasn’t quite gotten there, yet.”
“How can you be so okay with it?”
“I don’t know. I guess because they’re my brothers. What am I gonna do, you know? I have my life, they have theirs. When we’re all together, we just don’t talk about it. We work in a don’t ask don’t tell profession, so I’m used to keeping things to myself,” Andrew said.
“So you don’t know anyone on the force that’s gay?”
“I didn’t when I was working in Tempe, but things are different here in Sierra Vista. We still don’t make grand announcements, but there are a few of us who are openly gay. In fact, I’m surprised you didn’t find out about me sooner. I think that’s one of the reasons I put in for a transfer last year. So I didn’t have to worry if anyone found out. This precinct is a lot more relaxed.”
“I can’t believe this. You know, Dad hasn’t uttered more than a few words to me since I came out to him right after I graduated from the academy,” Matt told him.
“He’s such an asshole,” Andrew sighed. “I say fuck him. Matt, you need to do what’s best for you and screw anyone who doesn’t like you for who you are.”
“I couldn’t agree more,” David said from the doorway. “Sorry, but I wanted to come in and see how things are going.”
“But it’s not that easy. I don’t want to lose my family,” Matt said.
“Matt, you’re not going to lose your family. I haven’t lost mine. And besides, being gay really isn’t anyone’s business. You can just go about living your life and not worry about who finds out. It’s not like you’re going to announce it on national TV,” Andrew laughed.
“Well…” David said.
“What?” Andrew looked between the two men.
“Uncle Andrew, have you ever heard of Jackson Technologies?”
“Of course I have. Who hasn’t? They just implemented a new system that is going to make it easier for every police station in the US to have access to the same database. That is going to make pulling warrants so much easier for us. What about them?”
“Well, I’d like you to meet David Jackson. The youngest son of Donald Jackson.”
“That’s me. I don’t usually offer up my last name to people, especially not after I started dating a guy who’s in the closet.”
“How long have you two been together?”
“We just celebrated six years last month,” Matt said with a smile.
“How did you manage to make it six years without anyone finding out?”
“We never go anywhere,” David said sarcastically.
“That’s not true. We go out a lot,” Matt insisted.
“Oh, you mean when we hang out with your friends at their houses? When we make a rare trip to a dark restaurant? Babe, when was the last time you let me take you away for a while? Hell, when was the last time you came with me to visit my family?”
“I told you, now that I’m on the force, I have to work the holidays.”
“Then we’ll go before the holiday. Hell, I’ll call Eddie tomorrow and we can fly to New York and go see Daniel. We’ll have an early Christmas. Go see the tree at Rockefeller Center. Maybe do some ice skating. What do you say?”
“I…I can’t…get away right now.”
“Of course you can’t,” David said softly.
“No, it’s fine. I’m used to it. Look, I need to run an errand, but I didn’t want you to be here alone. Andrew, will you be staying for a while?”
“Yeah, I’ll hang with my favorite nephew for a while. You go do what you got to do.”
“Thanks,” David replied. He walked over and placed a soft kiss on Matt’s lips. “I’ll be back in a bit. Love you.”
“Love you, too,” Matt sighed. Then he watched his boyfriend leave, wishing there was something he could do to fix things. He was really starting to worry about their future. David was losing patience with him regarding his staying in the closet. He had been so understanding before Matt had come out to his family, but he didn’t agree with his father’s demands and Matt was afraid he was going to lose the love of his life if he didn’t do something soon.
“Matty, talk to me,” Andrew said, interrupting Matt’s thoughts.
“I don’t know what to do,” Matt admitted. “I love him so much and he’s been so great to me, but I think I’m going to lose him. He doesn’t agree with what I’m doing, staying in the closet to please my dad…he doesn’t understand why I feel like I have to abide by his wishes.”
“Why do you feel like you have to abide by his wishes?”
“Uncle Andrew, he’s my dad. I don’t want to lose him because I couldn’t be who he wanted me to be. I knew from the time I was twelve and realized that I was attracted to guys that he wasn’t going to accept me. It’s one of the reasons that up until David came along, I planned on marrying a nice girl, settling down and having children.”
“Up until David came along? Didn’t you say you two have been together for six years? That would’ve made you…”
“I was eighteen before I ever allowed myself to even consider being gay, and even that was a struggle. Thank God I met David when I did. Otherwise I’d probably be married to a woman right now.”
“Oh Matty…I’m so sorry.”
“Why are you sorry?” Matt asked in confusion.
“I’m sorry you’ve been struggling with being who you are. I’m sorry I didn’t stand up to my brother and beat some sense into the homophobic prick years ago. Maybe if I had done that, he wouldn’t have been so hard on you. You would have been able to tell him how you were feeling when you were twelve.”
“It’s not your fault, Uncle Andrew. I made my own decisions.”
“But did you? Making your own decisions would imply you did what you wanted to do, and I don’t think you did. I’ve been where you are. I was a scared twelve-year-old myself once, trying to understand why I was different than my brothers, my friends. And I may have decided not to share the news with my family until I was thirty, but I was always honest with myself. I knew at twelve that I would never marry a woman. Hell, I’ve never even kissed a woman. And when the time was right, I found other people like me and lived my life exactly how I was meant to. And believe me, there were times that I worried a bit that someone was going to see me out with a guy and tell my brothers, but I never let it keep me from doing what I wanted to do. David seems like a great guy, and I can tell by how worried he is about you that he really loves you. Please don’t let your small-minded father be the reason you lose the man you love. Good men aren’t always that easy to find.”
“I’ll…think about it.”
“That’s all I can ask of you. Now, how about if we go into that huge kitchen of yours so you can eat the salad Mr. Perfect made for you?” Andrew teased.
“Well what else would you call him? He’s tall, dark, and handsome, a really nice guy, and he’s rich. What more can a gay boy ask for?”
“Hey, I just call ‘em like I see ‘em. Now let’s go kid.”
Matt smiled as he went to the kitchen with his uncle.
As Zac packed for his trip home, he tried not to think about the last time he had been in Sierra Vista. It had been almost four years earlier and he and Jason had just broken up. He still wasn’t sure why they ended things. When they began living together at the start of their sophomore year, Zac really thought that the worst had been behind them. Yet as the year went on, he noticed little things, such as Jason’s constant anxiety in the bedroom. It was understandable, but it caused a lot of distance between them because Jason never wanted to talk about it. That distance began leaking over into other aspects as well. Jason stopped wanting to go out anywhere, choosing to order take-out instead of eating at their favorite local restaurant. By the winter semester, he even opted to do most of his classes online. When Zac tried talking to him about the changes he was seeing, he was always met with an attitude. Accused of not understanding.
It finally got to be too much, and Zac tried to have a heart to heart with Jason, but that went disastrously. Eventually Zac felt that he was more of a problem for Jason than a help and broke things off. He had been secretly hoping that Jason would fight for them, but the flash of relief Zac saw in his face told him all he needed to know. Their relationship was over.
It had been two weeks before the end of the semester, so Zac moved his stuff home and crashed on his friend’s couch until classes were over. Of course Brian and Justin offered to let him stay there, but he refused. He wanted Jason to have somewhere to go and his relationship with Justin was his only comfort. So instead, Zac had just stayed with his friend, looked into transferring out of ASU and then moved away to start a new life.
Since then, he had spent the last four years trying to put Jason out of his mind, but it didn’t really work. At first he had used his fake ID and started going out to the clubs and picking up random men, but when that didn’t work, he tried finding a new relationship. There had been Keith, Travis, Aaron, Kyle, and Melissa. Each one had been nice, hot, sweet, loving…everything anyone would want in a man or a woman, but none of them were Jason. He finally decided to give up and face the fact that until he got over his first real love, no one else was going to measure up. That was one of the reasons why he finally agreed to go home for the holiday. Every other year since he had left, he had managed to get his parents to visit him, using the excuse that he couldn’t get enough time off work. He had been hired at a local advertising firm to do his internship there while he finished up his degree in marketing. He told his parents that his position didn’t offer paid time off and he couldn’t afford to travel home. The other reason he was making the trip back to Arizona was because now that he had a degree and was working in one of the top firms in California, he couldn’t expect his parents to believe that as an executive, he wasn’t allowed to take time off. His boss had been very understanding and offered to let him work remotely so he could spend more time with his family. He had one day left before he was set to leave when he received a phone call that changed everything.
He was just finishing up his packing when his phone rang. He glanced at the caller ID and smiled. “Hey Mom, I just finished packing. I will be on the road early in the morning and should be there by mid-afternoon.”
“Honey…” Liz said softly. “I’m so sorry…I thought about waiting until you got here…”
“Mom? What’s wrong?”
“It’s your dad, sweetheart. He…he died this morning.”
Zac could barely hear through the ringing in his ears. “What?”
“I’m so sorry.”
“What happened? How…what happened?”
“There was an accident at work,” she said tearfully. “I don’t know all the details. Mr. Stewart came by and took me to the hospital…but he was already gone.”
“Oh mom,” Zac said. “Are you okay?”
“I…I’m not really sure. I think I’m numb. It hasn’t really hit me yet. Everything happened so fast, you know?”
“Where are you now?”
“I’m…I’m still at the hospital. They said I had to sign some papers or something? I’m here with Mr. Stewart.”
“Can I talk to him?” Zac asked and then waited until his father’s boss of 25 years got on the phone.
“Zac, I’m so sorry. I’m not even sure what happened. There will be a full investigation. The police are at the plant now, but I wanted to be the one to tell your mother. Your father was my best worker and a good friend. I owe it to him to make sure she’s okay,” Mr. Stewart explained.
“Thanks, I really appreciate that. If you can just stay with her for a little bit longer, I’ll call someone to go sit with her until I get home.”
“Of course. Take your time and be careful driving. I’ll get her home and wait with her until someone shows up.”
“Thanks, can you put her back on the phone for a minute?”
Zac waited until his mother was back on the phone. “Mom, I’m going to be on the road in less than an hour, but I have a six-hour drive ahead of me. Mr. Stewart is going to get you home and then I’ll send Chris or Zander over to sit with you until I can get there. Okay? I love you and I’ll see you soon.”
“I love you, too sweetheart. Please be careful. I didn’t want to tell you until you were here, but I couldn’t…I didn’t want you to come home expecting…”
“Mom, it’s fine. I promise to be careful. I’ll see you soon. Love you.”
As soon as the line went dead, Zac called Zander.
“Hey buddy, I hear you’re coming home for the holidays,” Zander said as he answered the phone.
“Yeah, um…Zan. I need a favor,” Zac began.
Zander could hear such sadness in Zac’s voice and immediately knew something was terribly wrong. “Of course. What do you need?”
“Um…can you go over to my parents’ house? My mom…she needs someone to sit with her. She should be there in about an hour. Are you free? I mean…unless you’re working. Maybe Chris can go?”
“Zac, slow down. Of course I’ll go if your mom needs me. What’s going on?”
“My dad…he died this morning,” Zac said tearfully.
“Oh Zac, I’m so sorry. Are you okay?”
“I’m not really sure, you know? I just found out and I can’t think about me right now. My mom…she needs someone. I’m basically packed. I’ll be on the road in about 20 minutes, but I’ve got a six-hour drive. I don’t want her sitting in the house by herself for that long. She’s in shock right now, I think. But once it hits her…I just don’t want her to be alone.”
“Listen to me, Zac. Take your time. I’ll take care of things until you can get here, okay? If you need some time to process, then take it. There’s no need to rush. We just want you safe,” Zander assured him. He looked up from his desk as Aiden walked in. “Look buddy, you go finish getting ready. Let me rearrange my schedule and then get over to your mom. I will call you in a little bit and check in, okay?”
“Yeah, thanks Zan. My dad’s boss is with her now. They were still at the hospital but should be home soon. He’s going to stay with her until someone gets there. For the first time in four years, I wish I didn’t live so far away.”
“No need to thank me. We’re family, no matter how far away you are. Love you, kid. I’ll see you later tonight.”
Once Zan hung up, he looked to Aiden. “Hey, I need the rest of the day off. Is there anyone who can take my group tonight?”
“Yeah, actually I can take it for you. I had a one on one, but he just called and cancelled. What’s up? Is everything alright?”
“That was Zac. His dad died this morning. I need to go over and stay with his mom until he can make it here from California.”
“Oh no, that’s awful! What happened?” Aiden said. “Was he sick?”
“I don’t even know. I don’t think he was sick, but Zac didn’t give me any of the details,” Zan said as he cleaned up his desk and grabbed his cell phone. “My files for the group are over there. Call me if you have any questions. Thanks.”
As soon as Zan got in the car, he called Chris, who happened to be in LA for an interview on Access Hollywood. His first book had been made into a movie and was going to be released for the holiday. He answered on the second ring.
“Hey Babe, tell me again why I have to do all this publicity shit? I was very happy being a second-rate writer, making just enough money to provide comfortably for my family.”
“Sorry babe, but your talent just couldn’t be contained,” Zan chuckled. Chris’s fame had been a real debate in their house for the last several years. Chris wrote because he enjoyed it, but he never wanted to be a famous author. Unfortunately for him, Christopher Kinney became a household name and his last book sold over a million copies. “I know you hate this, but you’re brilliant so you’re just going to have to learn to deal with it.”
“You’re starting to sound like my publicist,” Chris laughed.
“Who me? Nope, I’m just your biggest fan,” Zan assured him. “Listen, this isn’t a social call.”
“Uh oh, is everything alright?”
“Define alright,” Zan said. “I just got off the phone with Zac. His dad died this morning.”
“Oh shit. What happened?”
“I’m not sure. I didn’t ask for the details. He’s getting ready to head home, but it’s a long drive so I’m going to head over to stay with Liz until he can get here.”
“Fuck! This is why I hate all this publicity shit. I can’t head home until tomorrow,” Chris growled in frustration.
“It’s okay. I’ve got this. Aiden’s covering my group for me. I’m going to stop at home and make sure there’s something there for Sophia for dinner and give Brian and Justin a call before I head over. I just wanted to let you know what’s going on.”
“Are you going to call Jason?” Chris asked.
“I don’t know. I thought about it. I think he’d want to know. He and Liz were pretty close while he and Zac were dating. Besides, I know that Jason and Zac have kept in touch. I don’t think they’re the best of friends, like Brian and Justin, but they talk every few months. Jason would probably want to offer his support.”
“Yeah, I’m sure he would. Do you want me to make the calls for you? This way you can just focus on Sophia and Liz? I have the next two hours free.”
“Yeah, that would be great. Thanks Babe. I’ll give you a call later tonight.”
“Okay, I love you.”
“Love you, too.”
Zac made it to his mother’s house by five and was touched to see that not only was Zander there with her, but so were Brian, Justin, Steve, and Trent. He was told that Matt was working, but he was going to stop by after his shift. Everyone was sitting around talking about the old days and although he could see the pain and sadness in his mother’s eyes, she seemed to be enjoying the company.
After Zac had greeted everyone, he found a quiet corner so that he could have a few minutes to himself to let all the memories of being home wash over him. It was hard for him to be there, in his childhood home, knowing that his father was never going to be walking through the front door again. He was so lost in thought, he never noticed Brian come up alongside of him.
“How’re you holding up?”
“I’m not sure,” Zac admitted. “I think I’m still in shock, you know? I feel like I should be more upset, but I just feel numb. I haven’t even shed a tear. What the hell is wrong with me?”
“Zac, nothing is wrong with you. Everyone handles grief in their own way on their own time schedule. Just allow yourself to feel what you’re feeling. There is no right or wrong,” Brian assured him.
“Just remember that I’m here for you…whatever you need.”
“Thanks Bri. I really appreciate everyone coming over here like this. I know I’ve been a shitty friend the last few years.”
“You haven’t been a shitty friend.”
“Yes I have,” Zac sighed. “I was so lost when Jason and I broke up that I disappeared. I haven’t been back to visit since I moved away.”
“Maybe, but that doesn’t make you a shitty friend. You had to do what was best for you. It’s not like you didn’t keep in touch,” Brian pointed out.
“I know. I just hate that I stayed away so long.” Zac looked over to where Justin was sitting and then looked back at Brian. “I just don’t know how you do it.”
“Do what?” Brian asked in confusion.
“Stay so close with Justin. How do you see him all the time when you aren’t with him anymore?”
“I don’t know,” Brian shrugged. “What choice do I have? We’re all family. We didn’t have a choice but to learn how to be together without being together.”
Zac saw the look Brian was giving the blond and smiled. “You’re still in love with him, aren’t you?”
Brian didn’t even try to deny it. “Yes I am.”
“Then why aren’t you with him?”
“It’s…complicated. We want different things. Maybe sometimes love isn’t enough, you know?” Brian looked back at Justin again. “We may not be together, but at least he’s still my best friend. That has to be enough, I guess. At least for now.”
“Is it really enough, though? Life can be really short sometimes. My father is only 49 years old and now he’s gone. I always thought I’d have a lot more time with him. No one knows what the future holds.”
Before Zac could say anything more, he looked up and saw Jason walk into the living room. He watched as the other man scanned the room until their eyes met. Time seemed to stand still as Jason walked right over and took him in a tight hug.
“Oh Z, I’m so sorry.”
That’s all it took for the flood gates to open and for Zac to finally cry over his loss.
Justin was standing outside for some fresh air when Brian turned up by his side.
“Are you okay?”
“I guess,” Justin replied. “I know it sounds silly, but watching Zac break down over losing his dad brought back a lot of memories for me. It made me think about when I found out about my parents’ accident. I just needed a few minutes alone. I didn’t want to say anything and make today about me.”
“I’m sorry,” Brian said. “Is there anything I can do?”
“No, I’ll be alright. Our friend needs us. I can be strong for him. Once I’m home, I’ll just feel sorry for myself for a little bit and then be good as new.”
“Any chance you want some company?” Brian asked with a touch of hunger in his voice.
“No, I think I’ll pass tonight,” Justin said, hoping that his bravado didn’t sound fake. In all their time, whether together or apart, Justin had never told Brian no. But the conversation he had with Jason a few weeks back kept ringing in his ears. He needed to either accept Brian for who he was or end their sexcapades.
“I think I’d rather just go home alone tonight,” Justin reiterated.
“But…” Brian was confused.
“Bri, what are we doing? We’ve been broken up for over six months now, but aside from living separately and fucking other people, nothing has changed. If this was what I wanted, then we might as well have an open relationship.”
“That’s what I was trying to tell you.”
“But it’s not what I want. Bri, I love you more than anything and who knows? Maybe one day you’ll decide that I’m enough for you and we’ll find a way to make things work. No one knows what the future holds. But for now, I’m not enough for you…and I’m not willing to be in a relationship where you’re going out getting your needs met by random strangers. I wish I could be that person for you, but I can’t,” Justin said tearfully. “I just hope for your sake that when you figure out that tricking isn’t all that you think it is, I’ll still be here, because I’ve got to tell you I won’t wait around.”
Justin turned to go into the house without waiting to see if Brian followed. He needed to say goodbye to everyone and go home. He needed to be alone. Unfortunately, Zander had seen Justin go outside, followed by Brian, and went to check on them. He had overheard their entire conversation. His cousin met him in the hallway.
“Justin, I think we need to talk.”
“Zan, this really isn’t the place and I’m just getting ready to head out,” Justin replied although he knew it was futile.
“That’s okay, I’ll meet you over at your place in about an hour. Let me just go check on Sophia first.”
Justin just nodded his head and then went in to say goodbye. He hugged Zac extra tight, told him to call if he needed anything, and then promised to see him the following day. Once he said goodbye to everyone else, he headed home, went right to the fridge, and grabbed a beer. He could tell by the look of pity in Zan’s eyes that he had heard the conversation between him and Brian and he had no idea what his cousin was going to say. It was one of the reasons Jason was the only one who knew that he and Brian were still sharing a bed more often than not. He was not in the mood to discuss the situation he and Brian were in. Especially after finally telling Brian how he felt. He polished off the beer rather quickly and then grabbed another. This one he took to the couch and waited for Zan to show up. The older man walked through the door a short time later.
“Alright buddy, you want to tell me what’s going on with you and Brian?”
“Not really,” Justin replied. “If I wanted to discuss my friendship with Brian, don’t you think I would have done so by now?”
“Come on Zan. I’m 24 years old. How I choose to live my life is my business. You and Chris told us from the very beginning that we were a family and if we ever broke up, we had to find a way to stay in each other’s lives. Well, that’s exactly what we did.”
“By staying in each other’s bed? Come on Justin, talk to me. I’m not trying to give you a hard time. I’m worried about you. As much as I love Brian, and you know that I do, he’s turned into a heartless shit. I don’t want to see you being hurt by him.”
“A heartless shit?” Justin was appalled. “Is that what you think of him?”
“I don’t know, maybe?” Zander admitted. “Justin, when I think back to when you two broke up, the pain he caused you…all because he wanted to be able to fuck around? I’m sorry, but I was really pissed at him. I still am. If he had said that he just wasn’t in love with you anymore and didn’t want to be with you, I’d have more respect for him. Nobody can control their feelings. But to sit there and say that he loves you and wants to spend the rest of his life with you as long as he can go pick up anonymous tricks when the mood strikes? That’s bullshit. Chris and I did the open relationship thing for a few years, but our relationship started out like that, and we built up to being monogamous. You guys started out monogamous…he can’t just decide that he wants to slow things down after seven years and expect you to be okay with it. As far as I’m concerned, you did the right thing by breaking up with him.”
“Did I though?” Justin asked softly. “Zan, I still love him so much. I lay in bed every night and wish he was here. I meet other men and immediately compare them to Brian, and no one ever measures up. Do you have any idea how hard it was for me to tell him no tonight? If you weren’t here right now, I’d probably be calling him and apologizing for telling him no. How pathetic is that? Maybe it would just be better to go along with his idea of an open relationship and see how things play out. Maybe having him fuck other guys now and then wouldn’t be so bad. It’s not like he’d be out picking up a different guy every night. He’s here two to three times a week.”
“Oh buddy, I really wish you had come to me when all this first started. I might have been able to help you get through it.”
“It’s fine, Zan. I’m a big boy. I’ll be alright. And truthfully, how much more pain can he cause me? Nothing he does will ever hurt as much as it did when he told me that I wasn’t enough for him. Just please stay out of it. Don’t try talking to him and please don’t tell Chris. I know I’m asking a lot, but I really don’t want anyone else to know what’s been going on.”
“I don’t know.”
“Please? Just give me some time to figure things out. Maybe Brian will get the hint now and give me some space.”
“Do you really believe that?”
Justin shook his head sadly. “No, I don’t. But one way or another, things will work themselves out.”
“Alright, I’ll stay out of it for now. But please come to me when you need me. Brian is part of the family, but you’ll always be my priority.”
Everyone but Jason had gone home, and Liz was in bed when Zac finally dropped down on the couch. “Thanks for being here tonight.”
“Of course, where else would I be?” Jason said. “How are you holding up?”
“I don’t know. It feels so strange to think of him not being here anymore. I mean, you know my dad. He was always larger than life. I don’t understand how this happened.”
“Accidents happen,” Jason replied. “I wish I had a better explanation for you, but there isn’t one. I’m here for you though, whatever you need. Even if you wake up in the middle of the night and just need someone to listen, call me.”
“So we can go get some pie?” Zac asked with a small smile.
Jason smiled, too. “Yeah, so we can go get some pie.”
Zac sobered. “What about Macy?”
“Don’t worry about Macy. I’ll be here for you when you need me.”
“Thanks Jas. I don’t think I realized how much I missed you…everyone…until I saw you guys tonight. I’ve been so busy trying to take the advertising world by storm that I didn’t think about my personal life.”
“I know what you mean,” Jason said. “I’ve been really busy at work, too. I spent two months working day and night before I realized that I hadn’t seen anyone outside of work. It’s easy to get caught up in things when you’re trying to build your career.”
“Yes it is,” Zac agreed and then yawned. “Sorry, I think the day is catching up with me.”
“Yeah, let me get out of your hair. I meant what I said. Call me if you need anything. Otherwise, I’ll give you a call in the morning. I’ll help you and your mom figure things out.”
“Jas, tomorrow’s Friday. You’ll be at work,” Zac pointed out as he walked Jason to the door.
“No I won’t. I already called my boss and told her I had a death in the family. They’re not expecting me back until sometime next week. I’ll here for you until after the funeral. There’s no way I would let you and your mom do this alone.”
Zac felt himself tearing up as he pulled Jason into a hug. “Thank you.”
“Try and get some rest. I’ll talk to you later.”
Zac watched Jason go with mixed feelings. He really appreciated Jason being there for them, but he didn’t know how he was going to handle saying goodbye once everything was done and it was time for him to go back to California.
End of part 2
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