Now That You’re Here: Life Moves On
The next several days passed in a whirlwind of activity. Family from all over the place came in to pay their respects so there was a constant stream of people coming and going at all hours of the day. Zac stayed by his mother’s side while they planned the funeral and tried to pretend that they were okay. As promised, Jason had been there through it all, offering comfort whenever Zac needed it. But the big day had finally arrived, and Zac didn’t know how he was going to make it through. He’d been so busy trying to take care of his mother that he really didn’t have a lot of time to think about what this day would hold for him. He was upstairs in his childhood bedroom when there was a soft knock at the door.
“Come in,” Zac called out. He assumed it was his mother and was surprised when Jason walked through the door. “Hey, what’re you doing here? I figured I’d just see you at the funeral home with the others.”
“I thought you could use some help. Do you want me to go?”
For a moment, Zac actually considered sending the other man away. He had spent several hours thinking instead of sleeping the night before and thought about how great it felt to have Jason to lean on again, and how hard it was going to be once the whole nightmare was over and it was time to get back to real life. He didn’t know if he was going to have the strength to put so much distance between them again, but he quickly realized that he couldn’t worry about the future at that moment. Just thinking about what the day was going to bring, saying goodbye to his father, was enough to make his knees weak. Having Jason there would definitely make it easier. He had to focus on his father, and not worry about the future. “No, of course not. I just don’t want to cause you any problems. Macy can’t be too happy that you’re spending all your time with your ex.”
“Macy’s fine with everything,” Jason assured him, which had been the truth. As far as Macy was concerned, Jason was just helping out a good friend. She had no idea that said friend was an ex-boyfriend. He still couldn’t bring himself to tell her that he was bi-sexual. He wasn’t sure how she would react. She was very gay friendly but dating someone who played for both teams can be hard and since Jason had no desire to ever be with a man again, he figured there was no point in bringing it up. He just hoped that she never learned the truth. Keeping her away from his friends had been easy up to that point. He had been telling the truth; Macy had been very understanding when Jason explained that a good friend of his just lost his father and needed him. Unfortunately, since Jason and Zac were such good friends, Macy felt the need to take off work to attend the funeral and offer her support. She would be introduced to everyone at the funeral home in just a few hours and Jason had to hope that his secret wouldn’t come out.
“Good, I don’t want to cause problems in your relationship,” Zac replied.
“Hey, don’t worry about me. All that matters is helping you through saying goodbye to your dad. So, are you hungry? Thirsty? Do you need help picking out what to wear? What do you need from me?”
“A hug?” Zac said tearfully as reality once again struck that his dad was gone.
“Come here, Z,” Jason said as he pulled Zac in for a hug. “I really am so sorry you have to go through this. I wish there was something I could do to make this day easier.”
“I wish there was, too,” Zac cried. “I still can’t believe he’s gone. This is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to go through, and I keep expecting him to show up and help me through it, you know? My dad has always been there for me when I needed him and the fact that he’s not now really hurts. And my mom…I don’t know how to help her. She’s been so good with all the planning and stuff, but I hear her crying at night when she thinks I’m sleeping. It breaks my heart.”
“I don’t think there’s anything that you can do for her, other than what you’re doing, being here for her.”
“I know, that’s why I’m going to start looking for a new job as soon as this is over. I think it would be best if I moved back home and helped my mom. This is a big house and Dad used to handle all the little things, like cutting the grass and cleaning the gutters. I don’t want her to have to do everything herself.”
Jason felt his stomach flip at the thought of Zac moving back to the area. “Well, I don’t think you have to make any decisions just yet. You’re not due back for another couple of weeks. Before you make any plans, I suggest you wait and see how things go. Your mom is a strong woman. She’s going to make it through this, and she may not want you to give up your life for her.”
“My life? What life? J, I work, and I go home to my apartment and wait to go back to work. I rarely go out; I don’t have any real friends…just co-workers that I sometimes get a drink with. There really hasn’t been anyone special in my life since you. I’ve dated here and there, but I’ve never been interested in anything deeper than that. Not really interested,” Zac admitted. “I still don’t know what happened with us. How everything went so wrong.”
Jason could see a fresh wave of sadness wash over Zac and knew he was thinking about what they used to have. “I’m sorry, Z. I really wish things had worked out with us, but I just couldn’t…be the person I was before the attack. I think that person is long gone.”
“I know that, and I was okay with that. I just don’t understand why we couldn’t find a way to be together. I loved you so much…I was willing to be patient and let you find yourself again. All you had to do was stop pushing me away.”
“It wasn’t that simple,” Jason said. “I wish that it was.”
“Well obviously you eventually worked through everything. You’re in a relationship and just moved in with someone. I guess it was just me you couldn’t make it work with.”
“That’s not true.”
“It’s easier with Macy.”
“How is it easier with Macy? She can’t love you like I did. She can’t know what you need more than I could. I lived it with you…I was there for you…I held you through your nightmares and panic attacks. I went through therapy with you to try and learn how to help you. I don’t understand how you can say it’s easier with her.”
“Because she’s a woman,” Jason whispered.
Jason sighed as he walked over to the window, keeping his back to Zac. “She’s a woman. She’s small and soft and gentle. When I’m with her, I’m in control, you know? I never have to worry about being overpowered.”
“I know…it’s stupid. You were so good to me, and I tried so hard, but you’re this big, strong guy. Even when you were being so gentle, I was always aware of your strength. It was scary to me. We’d be sleeping and you would have your arm draped over me, and I would wake up in a panic and be right back there, with him holding me down. There were times when you would be hugging me, just being your sweet self, and I would feel helpless in your arms. And the sex…unless I was on top, I would have this nagging feeling in my mind that I had absolutely no control. And these feelings…I felt so guilty for them. I knew that you loved me and that you’d never hurt me, but I still couldn’t help feeling them. It just got to be too much.”
“Why didn’t you ever say anything?”
“I don’t really know. I just wanted so bad to be able to go back to the way things used to be. I really just wanted to fix things with us. I loved you so much and I hated that I was afraid of you. I hated that while you were this sweet and loving boyfriend, I was trying to get away. That asshole ruined my life. There were times when I wished he had just killed me because living in fear is no way to live.”
“No, don’t say anything else. Not now. I’m here to help you through the day. Whatever I was feeling…whatever I’m feeling now, just doesn’t matter.”
Zac knew he was right but getting Jason to open up…he had tried so hard before they broke up, but he never wanted to talk. He didn’t want to just forget everything. “Can we continue this conversation another day? I really think we need to finish this.”
“I don’t know what the point is. Our lives are different now. Everything is different.”
“Believe me, I know. But I really would like to finish this conversation one day.”
Jason sighed. “Okay, fine. Now, what are you wearing today?”
Zac allowed the change of subject, knowing that Jason needed it, but he filed away their conversation to deal with at a better time. He knew the day was going to be awful, but there was no way he was going to let Jason dodge the conversation entirely. If there was any way that Zac could fix things between them, he wasn’t going to miss the opportunity.
Matt was adjusting his tie when David walked up behind him and attempted to put his arms around him. He tried not to be hurt by the way Matt pulled away. “How are you doing?”
“I’m good, it’s just hard. I’ve known Zac’s dad for a long time. I actually used to be jealous of the relationship he had with Zac. My dad has always been…hard. I knew he loved me, but he wasn’t the playful, affectionate type. But Gary was everything you thought of when you thought about a dad, you know? He loved his wife and son more than anything in the world and he showed it every day. I would go over to Zac’s house for dinner and his dad would ask me about my day or what my plans were for the future, and he always listened to what I had to say. In fact, when I told him that I wanted to be a cop, he told me how proud he was of me. My own father never told me that. It was just assumed that I would be one. I don’t know. I haven’t seen him much since Zac moved away, but I’m still so sad that he’s gone.”
“Of course you are. It sounds like he was a great guy,” David replied. “Other than that, how’re you doing? We really haven’t had a chance to talk much since Zac’s been home. You’ve been spending a lot of time with him.”
“What’s that supposed to mean? His dad just died. I’m not supposed to spend time with him now? While he’s going through something so tragic?” Matt snapped.
“No babe, of course not,” David said. “I didn’t mean it like that. I’m just worried. It’s only been a week since…”
“Since I watched someone blow their head off, yeah I know. I was there, remember?”
“Can we not do this now? My only concern right now is helping Zac say goodbye to his father,” Matt told him. “Now come on, I don’t want to be late.”
David sighed as he watched Matt walk away from him. He felt so helpless. He knew that the awful incident was hitting Matt hard, and he completely understood why. Witnessing something like Matt did, had to really mess with a person’s head. He just didn’t like being shut out. The day after the shootings, Matt had to meet with a shrink from the precinct and ever since then, he had been distant and moody. David didn’t know what to do to help his boyfriend process what he went through. Matt hadn’t really wanted any of their friends to know what happened, but David was hoping that the younger man confided in his best friend. He’d have to talk to Justin at some point and find out what the man knew. As he grabbed his jacket and started heading towards the door, his cell phone rang. A quick glance told him that it was Daniel.
“Hey Danny, can I give you a call later tonight? I’m just heading out the door.”
“Yeah, sure. I just want to confirm our plans for Christmas, see what everyone else is doing,” Daniel replied.
David stopped dead in his tracks as he listened to his brother. With all the craziness of the shootings, he had forgotten that he had invited his entire family to Arizona for the holiday. He had made the plans on the morning of the shootings, before he had heard what happened, and never got a chance to discuss it with Matt. Between the mood swings and Zac’s father passing away, David couldn’t seem to find a good time to tell Matt that his entire family was going to be visiting. Having seventeen people come to town can be overwhelming on a good day. Under the circumstances…well, he wasn’t sure how Matt was going to react.
“Okay…yeah, I’ll give you a call tonight.”
Daniel could hear tension in David’s voice. “Bro, is everything alright?”
“That is the million-dollar question,” David sighed. “I’ll talk to you later.”
David ended the call and was about to put his phone in his pocket, when Matt appeared.
“Come on, what’s taking you so long?”
David sighed again. “I’m right behind you.” It was going to be a long day.
Matt went outside to wait for David. It was unseasonably cold for Arizona in December causing him to shiver as the chilly wind blew. He knew he was being unfair to David, but he couldn’t seem to help himself. He couldn’t get that day out of his mind. Seeing a man put a gun to his head and pull the trigger was a sight that no one should have to witness, and then finding the bodies of the man’s wife and kids…it was just too much. How could a person shoot and kill innocent children? The little girl was just three years old; her brother was only seven…the visions had been haunting him for days and he didn’t know how to stop them. When he had met with the precinct psychologist, he had managed to say all the right things to be cleared for duty, but it hadn’t helped what was in his head. Of course, once Gary passed away, all thoughts of anything other than being there for Zac and Liz had been put on the back burner. He just needed to get through the next couple weeks while he helped Zac say goodbye to his father, and then celebrate the holidays as best he could. Then maybe Matt could take the time to figure out why he saw bodies every time he closed his eyes.
Brian parked his jeep outside the funeral home and turned it off but didn’t make a move to get out. He really didn’t want to go inside. He didn’t know what to say to his friend to make what was happening any better. He didn’t know what to say to poor Liz. He felt completely out of his element. To make matters worse, Justin had barely spoken to him since they were all over at Zac’s house a few nights earlier. It had been the first time since they had gotten together almost eight years earlier that he had rejected Brian and that rejection had hurt. He still didn’t know why he had been turned away. Granted, what he had done to Justin six months earlier had been terrible, but Brian never meant to hurt his favorite blond. He was just trying to be honest about what he needed. He tried to ignore his feelings. Hell, it had been more than five years since his altercation with the bathroom guy in Disney and in that time, he had tried to push away his desires and be who Justin needed him to be, and he never once cheated. He just couldn’t continue on like he was. He thought explaining everything to Justin would make things better between them. He had been wrong.
Justin was devastated when Brian sat him down and explained that even though he loved him and wanted to spend the rest of his life with him, there was something missing. He had a need that couldn’t be filled in a monogamous relationship. He didn’t want to see other people; he didn’t want to have a boyfriend on the side. He just thought that they could open up the relationship to include an occasional random trick to get their needs met. He didn’t know why he had been stupid enough to think that Justin would go along with it. The blond had been furious, but worse than that, he had been hurt. The pain he had seen in those deep blue eyes had been like a slap to the face. And their breakup had been really hard, despite the fact that they were still best friends and ended up in bed together a few times a week. Brian would never admit it to anyone but most nights he tossed and turned, missing Justin more than he ever thought possible. There had been so many times when he had second guessed his choices and was ready to run back to Justin, swearing his eternal loyalty and begging for forgiveness, but something inside him stopped him from doing it every time.
He wasn’t sure why he was so fucked up in the head that he couldn’t offer the man he loved a monogamous relationship. He thought maybe it had something to do with knowing his father always slept around behind his mother’s back. He had been nine the first time he had caught his father with another woman. His mother had been away at one of her weekend bible retreats and Jack had the nerve to bring his bimbo of the month to the house. When Brian had caught them in a compromising position while he was getting a drink of water in the middle of the night, Jack had sat him down and told him that real men couldn’t be satisfied by just one woman. They needed variety. Nine-year-old Brian thought he was being taught a life lesson that night. It had been a couple years later when Brian realized that he was gay, but in his brain, that just meant that he couldn’t be satisfied with one man. His love for Justin had him fighting his urges, but it eventually became too much, and thanks to Justin’s proper upbringing and his desire to be monogamous, now he could have a different ass every night; just not the one he really wanted. A knock on the window pulled him from his thoughts and he smiled when he saw the love of his life.
“Hey Sunshine,” Brian said as he got out of the jeep. He quickly noticed dark circles under Justin’s eyes. “Are you okay?”
Justin sighed. He knew as soon as he saw the bags under his eyes earlier that morning that Brian would notice them, too. “Yeah, I’ve just been having trouble sleeping.”
“Why didn’t you call me? Maybe I could…”
“What, Bri? Maybe you could what? Come over, get your needs met and then leave again in the morning? Maybe even that night? No thanks. That’s not going to help,” Justin snapped at his former partner before looking around, remembering where they were. “I’m sorry, just…forget it. I’m fine. Are you ready to go in?”
“Brian, please don’t call me that…and can we not do this here? This isn’t the time or the place.”
Brian knew that Justin was right, but he also didn’t like to see the blond so upset. “Okay, can we at least talk tonight? I can grab some take out and head over around…”
“I don’t think that’s a good idea,” Justin said softly. “Come on, let’s get in there.”
Brian felt a deep sadness wash over him as he watched his ex-boyfriend walk away. Justin was right, the funeral home was definitely not the place to have a conversation about their relationship, but the blond better prepare himself. Brian wasn’t going to keep being pushed away. There were things they needed to discuss and there was no way Brian was going to be put off for much longer.
Justin was shaking by the time he made his way inside and over to where Zac was sitting with his mother. He offered his love and support once again and then found most of their group standing off to the side talking quietly amongst themselves. He joined them, pushing his altercation with Brian out of his mind. It wasn’t until Steve let out a soft whistle that Justin saw Jason and Macy walk through the door. He hadn’t met the girl yet, but her looks didn’t surprise him as much as they seemed to surprise everyone else.
“That’s Macy? Is she a model?” Steve asked as he stared at the stunning couple.
“Wow, no wonder he went back to girls. I think I just fell in love with her myself,” Dane laughed.
Justin laughed with him. “Yeah, back in Pittsburgh, Jason always had the hottest girls in our school falling all over him. It’s not surprising that she looks like that. Remember, no one say anything about the fact that Jason and Zac were together. Macy doesn’t know that Jason’s bi-sexual.”
“Which is so stupid,” Dane offered. “Secrets that big always come out in the end and someone always gets hurts.”
“Don’t look at me. I tried talking some sense into him, but it didn’t work. I’m just going to stay out of it from now on,” Justin assured them. “Has anyone seen Matt and David? They’re usually the first ones to arrive anywhere.”
“They just pulled in, along with Chris, Zan and Sophia,” Brian said as he joined the group.
“T, is it okay if I go find Sophia? I’m bored hanging with the old people,” Kaleb teased.
“I’ll give you old! Get out of here,” Trent snapped playfully as he gave Kaleb a gentle shove.
Once the teen was gone, Eric looked over at Trent and smiled. “You’ve done a really good job with him. After everything he’s been through, he could have ended up angry and bitter, but he’s turning into a very polite, well-adjusted young man.”
“I think he’s having sex!” Trent blurted out. All eyes turned towards him and waited. “I went into his room the other night to put his clean clothes on his bed, like I always do, and I saw a box of condoms laying on the nightstand.”
“Um…okay. First thing’s first…were they opened or closed?” Justin asked.
“They were still closed,” Trent admitted. “But that doesn’t mean it’s his first box? What if it’s his second…or third. God, I’m so not ready for this?”
“Hey, at least he’s being safe,” Brian pointed out.
“That’s not helpful, Brian,” Trent replied. “He shouldn’t be having sex at all. He’s too young!”
“Dude, he’s sixteen. What were you doing at sixteen?” Brian pointed out.
Justin shot Brian a dirty look before addressing Trent again. “Does he have a girlfriend?”
“Not that he’s willing to talk about, but sometimes I hear him whispering into the phone and I get the feeling that he’s talking to a girl. There is a girl who works at the ice cream shop by us. She’s always smiling at him and giving him extra whipped cream. Maybe it’s her…the little hussy.”
Eric laughed. “I think you’re getting ahead of yourself. Maybe he just bought them in case he needs them. Maybe he’s just thinking of the future. I mean, come on. It doesn’t sound like he’s trying to hide anything from you. He left them out in plain sight. I think you need to sit him down and talk to him. You might be working yourself up for nothing.”
“Yeah, I guess.”
“Luckily we don’t have to worry about those kinds of things with Julia and Gracie,” Eric said.
“And why is that?” Trent asked.
“Because I’m going to go online and order chastity belts for both of them. There is no way I’m letting some horny teenage boy…or girl…get anywhere near my princesses.”
Zac was sitting at the front of the room with his mother, staring at his father’s body as it lay so still and lifeless in the casket. There had been a steady stream of people coming up to pay their respects, but Zac barely noticed any of them. He didn’t know how his mother was holding it all together even though she was dying inside. He wasn’t that good of an actor. When he noticed more people headed their way, he sighed and stood up, surprised to see Jason standing there with a stunning blond. He knew immediately it was the girlfriend and that knowledge caused a lump to form in his throat. He tried to shake off the anger and resentment he felt towards the girl. It wasn’t her fault she took away the man he loved. She didn’t even know she did it.
“Hey, how are you holding up?” Jason said as soon as he was in front of Zac. He had left him before they headed to the funeral home so that Zac could ride in the limo with his mom, and he could go pick up Macy, and in the short time they were apart, Zac seemed to have fallen into deeper despair.
“You know me…steady as a rock,” Zac chuckled humorlessly as he turned his attention to the girl. “You must be Macy. I’ve heard a lot about you.”
“Hi Zac. I’m so sorry for your loss. I wish we were meeting under different circumstances. Jas speaks of you often,” Macy said as she extended her had.
“Thanks,” Zac replied. He wondered what Jason had said about him. Did she know that at one time they had been in love and planned on building a life together? He pushed away those thoughts and turned towards his mother. “Mom, this is Macy. She’s…Jason’s girlfriend.”
Liz quickly looked the young woman over and disliked her, probably because she knew that Macy was standing in the way of her son’s happiness. If she learned nothing else in the last week as she prepared to bury her husband, she learned that life was short, and you had to make the most of it when you could. After seeing Jason and Zac together again, there was no doubt in her mind that the boys still loved each other and belonged together. That made Macy the enemy.
“It’s nice to meet you, Macy,” Liz offered a small smile and she reached for the girl’s hand.
“I’m so sorry for your loss,” Macy said as she shook Liz’s hand. “I know how hard this is for you. My father passed away when I was eleven, and my mother…well she never really got over it. I know we just met, but if you need anything, please let me know.”
“Thank you,” Liz replied, feeling a little guilty for her earlier thoughts. Macy seemed like a very sweet girl, and the poor thing lost her father when she was just a child. That had to be hard. Why did she have to go and be nice, making it harder to dislike her? “Jason, why don’t you take Zac out for some air? We’ve been sitting here greeting people for almost an hour. He could use a break.”
“Mom, I’m fine. I want to stay here with you,” Zac insisted.
Jason knew what Liz was doing and knew that she was right. Zac needed some air. “Come on, Z. Let’s just take a walk around the building. Macy, would you mind staying here with Liz so she’s not alone?”
“Or course, you guys go ahead,” Macy agreed as she kissed Jason’s cheek.
Jason felt uncomfortable as Macy kissed his cheek in front of Zac and Liz, but he couldn’t react. Instead, he grabbed Zac’s arm and gently guided him towards the doors. He led him out the front doors and around to the back of the building where they could have some privacy.
“She seems sweet,” Zac said as soon as they were alone.
“Z, how are you really?” Jason asked, ignoring Zac’s comment. “Talk to me.”
And then the damn broke once again, and Zac’s body was wracked with sobs. “I can’t do this, J. I don’t know how to say goodbye to him. Just seeing him lying there…it feels like I’m in the middle of a nightmare and I can’t wake up.”
Jason took Zac in his arms and held him close while he cried, ignoring his own tears as they silently trailed down his cheeks. He couldn’t know exactly how Zac was feeling, but he knew from watching Justin go through his loss, that even if a person looks okay from the outside, there’s always so much more grief under the surface. He wasn’t sure how long they stood there before Zac’s sobs started to slow down. Jason held on for a few moments longer and then pulled back, making sure not to break all physical contact. “Did that help a little bit?”
“Thanks. How did you know I needed that?” Zac asked with a sad smile.
“Come on Z, I think I know you pretty well by now. I could see in your eyes that you were close to breaking down. You just needed a safe place to do it.”
Zac looked directly into Jason’s eyes and was touched by the sadness he saw there. Without thinking about what he was doing, he brought his hands up to Jason’s face to wipe away the dampness on his cheeks. “I’m sorry if this isn’t appropriate, but I am still so in love with you.”
“Come on, we’d better get back inside. I don’t want to be away from my mother for too long.” Zac didn’t wait for a response as he turned and walked back toward the building, leaving a stunned Jason in his wake.
The trip to the cemetery was even harder than the funeral home had been. Liz sobbed silently at the gravesite and Zac didn’t want to leave when the service was over. It took both Jason and Brian to lead him away from the casket and to the limo. Jason offered to ride with Zac to try and calm him down and Macy agreed to drive Jason’s car and follow Brian to Zac’s house for the repast. By the time they got to the house, Liz had pulled herself together and went into hostess mode, insisting on helping the catering company serve the food. Zac was still very quiet and sullen, and Jason was really starting to worry about him.
Justin was watching everything around him with a heavy heart, thinking back to his parents’ funeral and how lonely he had felt during those awful days. Looking around and seeing all his friends there made him very thankful for where he ended up. Even with as hard as his breakup with Brian had been, he was still happy to have met him and become a part of his life. He was lost in thought and jumped slightly when David came up behind him.
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you,” David chuckled.
Justin smiled. “That’s okay. I was pretty lost in thought.”
“Funerals have a way of making people think about things that they take for granted every day. I remember when my friend Ricky died. I was devastated and all I could think about was all the things I had wanted to say to him, but never did because I thought I had more time. From that moment on, I knew that I would make sure that the people in my life knew how much they meant to me.”
Justin glanced over at Brian before turning back to David. “Yeah, I know what you mean.”
“Listen Justin, can we go somewhere a little quieter and talk for a minute?”
Justin could see concern in David’s eyes and was immediately alarmed. “Of course. Let’s go outside.”
David followed Justin outside, watching closely to make sure Matt didn’t see them. Once they were alone, he started talking. “Have you spoken to Matt recently?”
“Can you be more specific? I’ve seen him almost every day since Zac’s father died, but I’m assuming you’re talking about something specific. We haven’t had any deep conversations, if that’s what you mean.”
“Fuck!” David exclaimed. “I was really hoping he was talking to you because he won’t talk to me. Justin, I’m really starting to worry about him.”
“David, what’s going on?” Justin asked as his anxiety grew.
“Last week he had a call at work, a call that went really bad. Luckily his uncle let me know what happened so I could be prepared when Matt got home that night. He was so distraught. I did the best that I could to comfort him and when he went to his psych consult at the precinct the next day he seemed to be as good as could be expected, but since then? He’s becoming more and more distant. He won’t talk about it, but I know it’s eating him alive. He gets up every morning and goes about his day, but he’s not the same person he used to be. He’s been biting my head off over everything, he won’t let me get close to him. Hell, every time I try and touch him, he pulls away. He’s hurting, and I don’t know what to do for him.”
“Poor Matt,” Justin said softly. “I can’t even imagine how hard being a police officer can be on a person.”
“I know. I was thinking about talking to Zander, but I know that Matt is going to be pissed as hell if I tell someone and to be honest, he’s already so mad at me most of the time, I’m afraid of what he’d do if I crossed that line. I’m afraid I’d come home to find him gone,” David admitted.
“I don’t think he’d leave you over something like that,” Justin assured him.
“I’m not so sure,” David replied. “Anyway, I was thinking that maybe you could try and find a way to talk to him. I’d rather you didn’t tell him we talked, but you guys are so close. If anyone can get him to open up, it would be you.”
Justin thought about it for a few moments. Maybe there was a way to get Matt to open up to him, but to do that, he’d have to open up to Matt and he wasn’t sure how he felt about that. Two people in his life already knew how stupid he was being. He didn’t really like the idea of letting a third person in, but one look at the pain in David’s eyes told him he didn’t have much of a choice.
“Okay, I’ll see what I can do. Is Matt working tomorrow?”
“Um…tomorrow. I believe he’s working the evening shift. He doesn’t go in until 2:00.”
“That’s even better. Before I leave, I’ll find Matt and ask him to come over tonight. I’ll tell him there’s something going on in my life and I need my best friend.”
“Justin, I don’t want you to have to lie to him.”
“Trust me, I won’t have to lie,” Justin chuckled humorlessly. “I’ll let you know how it goes.”
“Thanks Justin. I wouldn’t come to you if I didn’t think Matt was in trouble.”
“I know, and sadly it sounds like he’s definitely in trouble.”
Justin followed David back inside and pushed thoughts of Matt to the back of his mind. He didn’t want to say anything to his friend until they were leaving.
The afternoon dragged on while everyone came by to pay their respects to the family. Zac and Liz looked exhausted, and Jason was starting to worry about them. He was so happy when everyone around them started to say their goodbyes. He pulled Macy aside and told her he was going to stay and make sure they were okay. She volunteered to stay with him, but he told her it would be best if she went home without him. He had asked Brian to give her a ride.
It took almost an hour to get everyone out, but eventually it was just the three of them.
“Jason, thank you so much for being here through all of this,” Liz said as they all sat in the living room, finally taking the time to catch their breath.
“Of course. There’s no need to thank me. Gary was such a great man and I felt like I was part of the family for a while there. Being here for both of you just feels right.”
Liz smiled. “Gary really loved you. And you’re still a part of this family. Nothing is going to change that. Now, I think I’m going to go take a hot bath and then lay down. I haven’t really been sleeping that good and today was exhausting. Zac, I know this has been really hard on you, too. I’m here if you need anything, alright?”
Zac stood up and met his mother in the middle of the room and took her in his arms. “I know, and I’m here for you, too. We’ll find a way to get through this together. I love you, Mom.”
“I love you too, my sweet baby boy,” Liz whispered as tears began to pool in her eyes. “Okay, now enough of that crap. I’ve done enough crying for one day.”
Jason stood up and gave Liz a quick hug before she walked away, leaving Zac and Jason alone.
“You can go now,” Zac said. “I don’t need a babysitter and I’m sure Macy is waiting for you.”
“I’m not here to babysit, I’m here to hang out with a friend. And as for Macy, she’s not expecting me anytime soon. I told her I didn’t know what time I’d be home. She’s not waiting up.”
“J, I don’t want to fuck up your relationship. Macy can’t be too happy that you’re spending all your time with your ex-boyfriend.”
“Trust me, she’s fine.”
“Look, Macy doesn’t know that we…were together. She thinks we’re just friends,” Jason admitted.
“What? J, you’re living with this girl. How can she not
know that you and I were together? What we had wasn’t just some casual dating.
We lived together. We were in love…or at least I was. I guess our relationship
meant more to me than it did to you.”
“Z, don’t say that. My not telling Macy about us has nothing to do with our relationship or the way I feel about you,” Jason assured him.
“She doesn’t know I’m bisexual, alright? She has no idea that I’m into men.”
“I know what you’re thinking…but I’ve tried to date other women and be honest with them but finding out that I’m bisexual always freaks them out. They either think it’s disgusting or they’re afraid that they won’t be enough. They think that I’ll end up cheating on them because they don’t have a dick. When I met Macy…it was just easier not to tell her. At first, I was just going to wait until I saw how things went, you know? But then too much time passed…and it doesn’t really matter anyway. It’s not like I’m ever going to act on my desire for men. I can’t, remember? So there’s nothing to tell. Thanks to that asshole from campus, I’m as straight as can be because there is no way I’m going to put myself in a position where I can’t be in control.”
“Shit J, you still need to tell her the truth. If you love her and want to spend the rest of your life with her, she needs to know who you really are.”
“She knows who I am,” Jason insisted.
“Does she?” Zac asked. “Does she know that your secret fantasy involves being in bed with the Hemsworth brothers?”
Jason laughed. “That’s not…”
“Does she know how much you enjoy going down on a hard cock? How the sting of being entered turns you on?” Zac lowered his voice as he slowly approached Jason. “Does she know that the touch of a man gives you more pleasure than the touch of a woman could ever give you?”
“Z, please stop,” Jason begged softly as he fought off the feelings that Zac’s words stirred in him.
“I’m sorry,” Zac replied. “I’m not trying to upset you. I just want you to think about what you’re doing. You’re leading this poor girl on, letting her think that she has a future with you when the truth is you’ll never be completely satisfied with a woman. You may find them attractive; you may even enjoy having sex with them, but your true desire is to be with a man and one day that desire is going to be greater than your fear of them. Is that really what you want for Macy?”
“I…I better go,” Jason whispered. “I’ll…see you later.”
Zac watched Jason run away and sighed. He didn’t like hurting the love of his life the way that he had, but someone needed to make Jason see that what he was doing was wrong. In their time together, Zac got to know Jason better than anyone else and he knew deep in his heart that despite the past, Jason was definitely gay. Yes, he found women attractive, but he couldn’t develop the connection with them the way he could with a man. And yes, Zac wanted Jason back, but if they couldn’t make it work, he at least wanted him to be happy. And Macy could never make him truly happy.
Matt waited until he was settled on Justin’s couch with a beer in his hand before addressing his friend. “So, what’s going on? Is this about Brian? I know how hard the last six months have been on you. I can’t even imagine how hard it is to see him and be friends with him and not be together.”
“Oh, you don’t know the half of it,” Justin chuckled before taking a sip of his beer. He really wished he didn’t have to tell his story, but he needed to get Matt to open up to him and he really felt like the only way to do that was for them to have a true heart to heart talk. “Brian and I are still sleeping together.”
Matt stared at his friend for a moment. “I’m sorry…what?”
“I said that despite the breakup, Brian and I are still sleeping together.”
“And by sleeping together, you mean…”
Justin stood up and started pacing. “I mean that we usually spend two to three nights a week together, having dinner, going out to a bar or club…and we always end up back here in my bed.”
“I don’t know, because I’m an idiot?”
“I’m confused,” Matt replied. “If you guys are still together…”
“We’re not together. I mean…we’re not in a relationship,” Justin tried to clarify.
“But…why? If you’re still going out and having sex…and you’re obviously still close, why aren’t you in a relationship? I don’t understand. Why did you break up if you were still going to be together?”
Justin sighed. “Our sleeping together wasn’t supposed to be a part of the breakup. That kind of just happened. We broke up because Brian wanted an open relationship, and I didn’t.”
“He wanted…that son of a bitch!” Matt exclaimed.
Justin jumped at Matt’s outburst. “Matt, it’s alright.”
“The fuck it is!” Matt yelled. “You guys were together for seven years and suddenly he wanted to start sleeping around? Are you fucking kidding me?”
“What the fuck is his problem? He has one of the nicest guys I know by his side and it’s not enough?”
“What the fuck is wrong with people?”
“Matt, please calm down,” Justin pleaded. “I didn’t mean to upset you.”
Matt looked at his friend and immediately felt awful. “Oh Jus, I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to start yelling like that. I’m sure the last thing you need is me acting like a lunatic.”
“It’s okay,” Justin assured him. “I would probably be the same way if David did something like that to you. I just don’t know what to do. It wasn’t supposed to be like this. We were supposed to be together forever…and then when we broke up, we were going to find a way to stay friends for the sake of the family. We weren’t supposed to end up in bed together constantly. And now…the day that Gary died was the first time I told Brian no. He could tell that I was having trouble watching Zac mourn his dad…it brought back so many memories of when my parents died. He offered to come over…but I finally stood up for myself.” Justin paused and took a deep breath before continuing. “It wasn’t easy, though. In fact, if it wasn’t for Zander, I probably would have ended up changing my mind and calling him to come over. But Zan overheard us and confronted me about what was going on. Now he’s pissed off at Brian. He and Chris knew why we broke up, even though we kept it a secret from everyone else, but they didn’t know we were still sleeping together. Zan got so mad…just like you did. And I don’t want to make a big deal out of it. I don’t want everyone to get mad at Brian. If he wasn’t happy in our relationship, he had every right to ask to have his needs met. It’s not his fault I can’t give him what he wants.”
“That’s bullshit. Everyone should be mad at him. Getting his needs met? We’re not talking about having a little alone time to drum up a new hobby. We’re talking about fucking around! No one in their right mind would agree to something like that after being in a monogamous relationship for seven years,” Matt replied. “Does anyone else know about this?”
“As far as I know, only Jason and now Zander. I don’t think Brian told anyone.”
“Of course not. Why would he? It would only make him look bad. Justin, I’m so sorry, but I think you did the right thing by ending his nighttime visits.”
“That’s only if I can keep saying no. He wanted to talk tonight, but I told him no again. That’s one of the reasons why I wanted you to come over,” Justin said, refusing to feel bad about his little white lie. Truth be told, knowing that Matt was coming over prevented Justin from inviting Brian over when he saw the sad look his ex was giving him as he was saying goodbye. “But I can’t keep dragging everyone else into the middle of this. And what’s going to happen in two days? It’ll be Christmas Eve. We’ll be staying at Chris and Zander’s house. How am I going to find the strength to stay away from him when the only thing separating us is a couple staircases?”
“Then don’t stay there,” Matt suggested. “You can go over and spend the evening with them but tell Chris and Zan that you can’t spend the night.”
“That’ll never work. What would be my reason? We’re always together for the holidays and we promised not to let our breakup affect the family.”
“Tell them that you’re coming to my house.”
“Your house? Why would I be going to hang out with you and David on Christmas Eve? That would be weird. Especially because you guys usually swing by to see us,” Justin pointed out.
“I don’t know,” Matt said softly. “Maybe because I’m losing my mind and you’re my best friend and possibly the only person who can help me.”
Justin saw the sudden change in Matt’s face and knew he hit his mark. “What do you mean you’re losing your mind?”
And then Matt crumbled right in front of Justin’s eyes, his sobs ringing throughout the house with such despair that Justin was on his feet in seconds, offering his comfort. He held his friend tight while Matt continued to sob and mumble words of nonsense. Once the sobs slowed to small hiccups, Justin pulled back and encouraged Matt to look at him.
“Matt, what’s going on? Talk to me.”
Matt took a couple deep breaths and tried to pull himself together and then started from the beginning. He explained how hard it was being a cop. How he spent more than half of his shifts seeing so much ugliness and death. Then he went on to tell Justin what happened on the day he watched a man blow his brains out. “Jus, those poor children…the little girl was just three years old and her face. I can’t unsee it. It’s always there. Even while I’m sleeping, I can’t get away from it. And I was there…I was in the house when the guy put the gun to his head, and I couldn’t do anything to stop it. I keep thinking back to the moment the guy opened the door…if I had done something different, maybe I could have saved him. I can’t stop obsessing over it all. And David is trying so hard to help me, but he can’t. No one can. And now…I think I’m going to lose him.”
“Why would you think that?”
“Because he’s still so mad at me for listening to my father and staying in the closet. And now, I’m walking around like a zombie and I’m so angry all the time. I don’t mean to take it out on him, but I can’t help it. Every time he touches me…I’m just not comfortable in my own skin, you know?”
“Have you tried talking to someone about it? All those cop shows always talk about having psychologists on stand-by or something for trauma like that,” Justin said with a smile.
Matt chuckled. “Oh yeah, I had to go see their shrink the next day. A lot of good that did me. She kept asking me how I felt at seeing what I saw. How the fuck does she think I feel? I passed her little test by saying everything she wanted to hear and got the hell out of there.”
“Matt, after going through something like that, don’t you think talking to someone would help? Maybe you could talk to Zan or Aiden?”
“I don’t know…I guess. I just don’t want to go through this, you know? I have spent most of my life being lost in my own head. Always being afraid someone would find out what I was thinking, how I was feeling. Then, when I finally come out to my family, my dad pushes me back in the closet. Now I’m not only scared of someone finding out about me and blowing up my life, I’m terrified David’s going to get sick of hiding all the time and leave me. You know, when we first started dating, he used to say that I could stay in the closet for the rest of my life and he would still stay with me because he loved me so much, he couldn’t imagine his life without me. I haven’t heard him say those words in a long time. The one place I used to feel secure was at work. I was confident in my abilities and knew I was doing a good job and making my family proud of me. Now that’s gone, too. For the last week, my nerves have me shaking while I’m still putting on my uniform in the morning. Yesterday we got another domestic call and I hesitated. I didn’t want to knock on the door. I didn’t want to know what was inside. I just feel like I’m so overwhelmed with fear all the time.”
“Oh Matt, I’m so sorry.” Justin took Matt’s hand and held it. He could feel his friend tremoring inside. “I wish there was something I could do to make this all easier for you. I can tell you one thing, though. David’s not going anywhere. He still loves you enough to stay in the closet with you.”
“How can you be so sure?”
“Well, at the risk of getting us both in trouble, why do you think you’re here? He’s really worried about you,” Justin assured him. “And before you get mad, he didn’t tell me what happened. All he said was that you had a bad call, and you haven’t been the same since. He considered talking to Zan, but he said that you’ve been so mad at him lately that he was afraid that if he pushed too much, he’d come home and find you gone.”
“I would never…I couldn’t live without him. He’s the love of my life,” Matt said as his voice cracked with emotion. “I guess I’m really screwing things up, huh?”
“I wouldn’t say you’re screwing things up, but I definitely think you need to try a different approach to this. What you’re doing now clearly isn’t working.”
Matt knew his friend was right. He reached into his pocket and pulled out his cell phone. The captain answered on the second ring.
“Hey Matt, what’s going on?”
“Look, I hate to spring this on you at the last minute, but I think I’m going to need a little time off. I don’t think I’m handling things that well after last week.”
“No problem, I was kind of expecting this. I spoke with Collins this morning. He said you’ve been pretty off during your shifts. I was just going to give you a few more days before I spoke with you myself. What you saw? That’s not something that can just be swept under the rug. Do you want to go see Maggie again? I can give her a call and let her know what’s going on. After so many years on the force, I have her number on speed dial.”
“Thanks, but I think I’d rather talk to my own guy. I happen to have someone on speed dial as well,” Matt chuckled and smiled at Justin who was watching him intently. “I really appreciate this, Captain.”
“Hey, we take care of our own. I can’t have one of my guys going out there if he’s not 100%. Do me a favor and swing by tomorrow afternoon. I’ll have some paperwork that you’ll need to sign to make your leave official. And it goes without saying that the leave will be a paid leave. We’ll set it up for 30 days and then reevaluate after that.”
“Okay, I’ll see you tomorrow. Thanks again.”
“See you tomorrow.”
Once the call was over, Matt stood up and downed the rest of his beer. “I guess I’d better get home and see if I can start to undo some of the damage I created at home.”
“Are you sure you’re okay to drive?” Justin asked as he stood up.
“Jus, it was one beer.”
“I know, that’s not what I meant.”
Matt smiled at his friend. “Don’t worry, I may be crazy but I’m not going to be careless.”
“Okay, but will you humor me and text me when you get home? Just so I know you’re safe? I still get a little anxious about car accidents and it’s late and…”
“I promise, I will text you the minute I put my car in park,” Matt promised. He pulled Justin into a strong hug. “Love you, my friend. Thanks for tonight. I guess I needed a kick in the ass, and you were just the person to do it.”
Justin laughed. “That’s what I’m here for. Love you, too.”
“And remember, I’m here for you, too. I want to talk more about what’s going on between you and Brian. Seriously, you can’t keep letting him call the shots. I know you love him, but you deserve so much more than what he’s giving you right now. I love the guy, but he’s being an asshole.”
“Thanks. Give me a call tomorrow and we’ll talk some more.”
Justin watched his friend walk away with a smile on his face. He really hoped that Matt would find some peace after the awful experience he had. Once Matt’s taillights were gone, Justin locked up the house and went to bed. He stripped down to his boxer briefs, crawled into bed and cried himself to sleep…just like he had every other night he went to sleep alone since he and Brian broke up.
End of part 3
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