Now That You’re Here: Life Moves On
It was the day after Christmas…thirty-one hours since Eric proposed, and Dane still couldn’t stop smiling. It was definitely the best Christmas of his life. He and Eric had sat the girls down the day before, after all the excitement of unwrapping presents was over, and told them there was going to be a wedding. Both girls cheered and hugged them, then asked if they could be flower girls. Then they went over to Steve’s house for brunch, and everyone was thrilled to learn of the upcoming nuptials. After that they went over to the Somers house where Dane’s mother cried happy tears, his father congratulated them several times, and his sister teased Eric about what he was getting himself into before telling them both how happy she was for them and how much she loved them.
It was a perfect day and now that the holiday was over, Dane had the exciting job of telling his friends that he was engaged. It hadn’t been easy to stay away from his phone and not call everyone he ever met, but he and Eric decided to wait so he could share their exciting news in person. First on his list was Brian, and after a quick text message, he found out that he and Justin were still over at Chris and Zander’s house. He told them not to eat…he would pick up bagels and danish on the way…and then corralled Eric and the girls out of the house.
“You are so cute, you know that?” Eric said as he smiled at Dane. They were in the car and Dane was driving.
“I’ve never seen you this happy before,” Eric told him.
Dane smiled. “I’ve never been this happy before. I know that I’ve told you in the past that I never really cared about getting married. That I didn’t feel the need for it, but apparently I was wrong. Our life together has been so wonderful, but I feel like this was the final piece I needed to have everything I ever wanted. I feel like all my dreams are coming true…even the dream I didn’t know I had. I love you so much.”
“I love you more,” Eric said as he took Dane’s hand and kissed it.
“Dad!” Gracie groaned from the back seat. “Can you and Dane either stop being so mushy or turn up the radio so we don’t have to listen to you?”
Eric looked in the backseat and saw his daughter trying to keep a straight face. He reached back and tickled her before turning up the music. Dane wasn’t the only one who was happy. Life was good.
Brian was sitting in the living room with Justin by his side. Chris and Zander were curled up on the couch and Sophia was sitting on the floor, playing with the new cell phone she got for Christmas. It was a nice, quiet morning and they all had so much to be thankful for. Brian and Justin were back together, Chris’s movie hit number one at the box office, and they all had each other.
“So, did Dane tell you why he wanted to come over?” Chris asked as they all sat around waiting for him to show up.
Brian shook his head. “No, he just asked where I was. When I told him, he seemed happy that we were all together. Then he told me that he was bringing breakfast for everyone and hung up. I have no idea what he’s up to.”
Chris looks at Zan. “Do you know anything?”
“How would I know anything?” Zander asked.
“Come on, you and Eric have been really close ever since you helped him through his shit five years ago. You have to know what’s going on.”
“Actually, I haven’t really spoken to Eric much in the last couple of weeks, between Gary’s passing and the holiday, we’ve both been really busy.” Zan hoped that his facial expressions didn’t give him away. He had a feeling that Dane was coming by to announce an engagement. Eric had swung by the center almost a month ago to show him the rings. It had been killing Zan not to tell anyone, especially Chris, but it just wasn’t his place. Eric wanted to make sure it was a surprise.
“Well, I think I heard a car door slam, so I guess we’re about to find out,” Justin said. He got up and went to let Dane in, not really surprised to find Eric and the girls with him. “Come on in. You guys didn’t have to stop and buy breakfast. I know we’re not fancy chefs like you two, but we can hold our own in the kitchen.”
“I know, but I wanted to do something for you since Dane kind of just invited all of us over,” Eric laughed. “Let me put this stuff down in the kitchen. We can say hello to everyone and then figure out who wants what.”
The girls raced ahead to find Sophia and Dane and Eric went into the kitchen with Justin to put the food down. Then they all made their way to the living room, where all the greetings were made.
“Okay, now that we’ve all said hello,” Brian spoke up. “What’s going on?”
Dane looked at his friend and smiled. “Eric asked me to marry him,” he exclaimed.
All four men jumped up and congratulated the couple with hugs and kisses and excitement. Even Sophia put down her phone and hugged both men with joy. They spent the next twenty minutes talking, going over when he bought the rings and how he proposed. Brian had never seen his friend so happy, and he could feel himself getting choked up over it. He stood up and announced that he would start getting breakfast together before walking towards the kitchen. Once he got there, he took a few deep breaths and then started opening up the bags that were on the table. A few minutes later he heard footsteps coming up behind him.
“Hey, are you alright?” Dane asked as he placed a hand on Brian’s shoulder.
Brian chuckled. “Yeah, I’m good. It’s stupid…I was thinking about…you know…what happened before.”
Dane sighed. “I know, me too. I can’t believe how stupid I was back then. I really thought that Sandy being pregnant was the end of the world. Now look at me. I have an amazing daughter, a wonderful family, and I’m about to marry the sweetest man on the earth. It feels like it’s a dream. Like I’m going to wake up one day and be back in my bed at my parent’s house, miserable and alone. Ouch!”
Brian laughed. “I wanted to pinch you, so you know you’re not dreaming.”
Dane shoved Brian. “Asshole.”
“I can’t believe you’re the first one of us fags to actually take the plunge,” Brian teased.
“I know, me neither. It’s funny, on the night that Eric and I first hooked up, we were having an innocent conversation about marriage, and I told him that although I believed gay people should have the same rights as straight people, I didn’t feel the need to do it myself. That growing up, I just accepted that gay marriage was not allowed so I didn’t feel the need for it. Now I can’t wait to get married. I don’t know if I was completely full of shit that night, or just hadn’t found the right guy.”
Brian laughed. “Probably a little of both. I’m so happy for you, and I can’t wait to dance at your wedding.”
“Thanks…but I need you to do more than dance. Will you be my best man?”
Brian was shocked. “Seriously?”
“Well yeah, who else would I ask? You’re my best friend. I love everyone, but I couldn’t imagine asking anyone else to be by my side.”
Brian grabbed Dane and hugged him tight. “Of course I will. I love you, man.”
“I love you, too!” Dane replied, feeling a little choked up. “Now just a word of warning, I have a feeling I’m going to be a bridezilla.”
Brian laughed. “I’d expect nothing less.”
Before anything more could be said, Justin walked into the kitchen. “Babe, can I borrow your jeep? Jason just texted me and I need to get over there, but I don’t have my car.”
“What’s going on?” Brian asked, the bagels and bridezilla forgotten.
“I’m not sure. I just got a text that said he needs me. I tried to call, but it went right to voicemail. Do you mind if…”
“No, of course not,” Brian replied as he walked over and kissed the blond. “My keys are on the hook by the door. Call me and let me know what’s going on.”
“I will. Love you…congratulations again, Dane. I can’t wait to hear all the details.”
“We’ll talk soon. I hope Jason’s okay,” Dane said.
“Thanks. Love you guys.”
Brian watched his boyfriend leave and then turned to Dane. “I hope everything is okay. Poor Jason hasn’t had an easy time of it for a long time now.”
“I hope so, too,” Dane agreed.
Justin made it to Jason’s apartment in record time. He raced to the door and started knocking and didn’t stop until he heard Jason on the other side. Then the door opened, and Justin gasped at the sight before him. Jason stood there with rumpled hair and clothes, dark circles under his eyes and it was apparent that he had been crying. Without bothering to say a word, Justin walked right in and took his friend in his arms. Jason burst into tears at the gesture.
“Shhh…I’ve got you,” Justin whispered as he made his way inside without releasing his hold on Jason. He kicked the door shut behind them and slowly led Jason to the couch. He pulled back so they could sit down and then Jason was back in his arms. “Hey, take a few deep breaths and try to calm down.”
Jason did what he was told and tried to calm himself down. He had been trying to calm himself down since Macy had said goodbye the day before and nothing was working. Sadly, he didn’t think it was losing his girlfriend that had him so upset. It was more than that. It was the fear of being alone because he couldn’t be with the person he wanted to be with. That was what had him losing his mind.
Justin waited until he could tell that Jason had calmed down a bit and then pulled back and looked into sad eyes. “Jas, what’s going on?”
“Macy’s gone,” Jason croaked, his voice somewhat scratchy from all the crying.
“What do you mean gone? She was going to visit her mother, right? I remember you saying that she was going to be leaving Christmas night.”
“No, she’s gone for good. She said we needed to take a few days and then talk, but I’m not stupid. She’s gone…and it’s all my fault. I don’t know what I was thinking…I mean, right in the hallway? What did I expect?”
“Buddy, I really want to help you, but you’re confusing me. Why don’t you start from the beginning?” Justin encouraged him. “Take your time. I don’t have anywhere to be.”
Jason sighed and wiped his eyes before starting from when he bumped into Zac coming out of the bathroom all the way up to watching Macy walk out the door with her suitcase. By the time he was done, the tears had returned, but they were silent this time. No more sobbing. He was almost cried out.
“Oh Jas…I’m sorry, but maybe she just needs time. Give her a few days to settle down and then try talking to her.”
“What difference will it make?” Jason asked as he stood up and started pacing the small living room. “She’s right. I am still in love with Zac…and he’s still in love with me. He told me he was. What am I going to do?”
Justin smiled sadly at his friend. “I think the obvious thing would be to talk to Zac.”
“But I can’t be with him,” Jason sighed. “Jus, you have no idea how hard it was to be with him before. He’s so big and strong…I feel like I’m powerless when I’m with him and it scares me. I’m so tired of being scared. You have no idea what the last six years have been like for me.”
Justin stood up and went to his friend. “You’re right, I have no idea what the last six years have been like for you. But Jas, you can’t keep letting him win. You can’t go on letting him keep you from the man you love. I get that you’re scared, but if you’re honest with Zac, he’ll do everything he can to help you through it all. Let’s face it, the only reason things got so bad when you were together before was because you were hiding from him…trying to keep your feelings to yourself. Do it differently this time. Be honest with him and let him help you. I can’t promise that one day all your fears will be gone. I hope that they will, but I can’t promise that. I can promise that getting through each day will be a little bit easier for you if you have Zac by your side.”
“I’m so scared,” Jason whispered.
“I know you are, but wouldn’t it be worth taking a chance if it meant that Zac was back in your life again? Jas, you’re one of my best friends and I will be here for you for anything you need, but I can’t help you with this. I can’t be there for you like Zac can. If you love him like you say you do, then give him a chance to help you.”
Jason nodded his head and then reached for his phone. He knew the minute Macy walked out that he needed to talk to Zac, but he needed Justin’s reassurance before he was ready to make his next move. He sent a simple text message, asking Zac to come over when he had a chance and giving him the address. He said they needed to talk. It only took a few moments for Zac to respond.
“He’s on his way,” Jason said softly.
“Good, now as long as you’re okay I
think I’ll get out of here and leave you two alone,” Justin said as he walked
over and hugged his friend. “Call me later and let me know what’s going on?”
Jason laughed. “Of course. Thanks for dropping everything to come over.”
“Hey, that’s what friends are for. Love you.”
“Love you, too.”
As soon as Justin was gone, Jason went into the bathroom and splashed cold water on his face, but it didn’t really help. He still looked awful and knew Zac would notice the minute he walked through the door, but there was nothing he could do about it. From there, he went into the bedroom and made the bed. Then he picked up the few pieces of clothing that were laying around and threw them in the hamper. Then he went into the kitchen and washed the few dishes in the sink. Cleaning was keeping his mind off of the fact that Zac was on his way over and he had no idea what to say to him. Once the kitchen was clean, he made his way back to the living room, fluffed the couch pillows and began pacing. When he heard the knock on the door, he slowly made his way over to let Zac in. His heart was beating out of his chest.
“Hey, what’s going on? What happened?” Zac asked. The minute the door opened, and he saw Jason’s face, he knew something was wrong. He could see it in his eyes.
“Not really,” Jason whispered. “Come in. Do you want something to drink? Are you hungry? I think I can make you a sandwich.”
“No, I’m good,” Zac assured him. “Why don’t we sit down? You said you wanted to talk?”
“Um…yeah…let’s…sit,” Jason stammered as he led Zac to the couch and they both sat down. He took a deep breath before he began. “So…Macy left.”
“I figured as much since you had me come here,” Zac replied. “You said she’d be back on the second, right?”
“No…I mean, yes I said she’d be back on the second, but as it turns out, she’s not coming back. I mean, I guess she’ll be back eventually…she’ll want to get the rest of her things…but she’s not coming back to me.”
Zac looked at Jason in confusion. “J, what’s going on?”
“She…uh…she kind of saw us in the hallway the other night,” Jason explained.
“Oh J, I’m so sorry,” Zac replied. “What can I do? Do you think it will help if I talk to her? Explain that it was all my fault…that I was just mixed up because of my dad? I’m really sorry. I shouldn’t have…”
Jason stopped him from continuing. “Z, why are you apologizing? It’s not your fault. I kissed you, remember? I was the one trying to get in your pants.”
“Maybe…but I’m the one who has been bringing up the past, telling you that I’m still in love with you. I never should have said anything. You and Macy were fine before I came back to Arizona.”
“No, we weren’t,” Jason admitted. “Macy is a very sweet girl…and she’s very nice to look at, but as much as I like her, I’m not in love with her.”
“Maybe you just need more time…”
“Come on, Z, you don’t really believe that do you?” Jason asked.
Zac chuckled. “No, but I’m trying to make you feel better.”
“I’m still in love with you, too,” Jason whispered as tears pooled his eyes. “And I’ve been wanting to tell you that ever since we were outside of the funeral home and you told me you were still in love with me, but I was afraid.”
Zac felt his hopes soar, but he tried not to get too excited until he could figure out what exactly it was that Jason wanted. “What are you afraid of?”
“Absolutely everything,” Jason laughed. “Z, I’ve miss you so much. These last four years have been terrible for me.”
“I’ve missed you, too. I’ve spent the last four years going to school and then work, making a name for myself in the business world and trying my best to get over you, but it didn’t work.”
“I just…” Jason whispered. “I don’t know if I can give you what you want.”
Zac moved closer and took Jason’s hands in his. “All I want is you. J, I’ll take your lead. I want to help you move on from the attack, and if I have to spend the rest of my life celibate and sleeping in a separate room to make you feel safer, I’ll do it. As long as you love me, I’ll have everything I need.”
Jason broke down and threw himself in Zac’s arms, overcome with so many emotions. He was terrified of what the future held for them, but he also had hope. For the first time in four years, he actually felt like there could be happiness at the end of the tunnel.
The last Jackson had just walked out the door and Matt wanted to jump for joy. He loved David’s family and was happy that they got to see everyone and that the holiday went so well, but he was ready to have some peace and quiet. Their house had been bursting at the seams for four days and it was a lot to take.
“I’m sorry, babe,” David said as he dropped down on the couch alongside Matt.
“What are you apologizing for?” Matt asked in confusion.
“I know it’s been crazy the last few days with my whole family here. We’re a loud and boisterous bunch.”
“Yeah, you’re definitely a lot louder than what I’m used to,” Matt laughed. “But you don’t have to apologize for it. They’re your family and will always be welcome here. Hell, let’s face it. This house is a lot more yours than mine. My salary couldn’t afford the guest house out back let alone all of this.”
“Hey,” David said as he turned serious. “I told you when we bought this house that it’s as much yours as mine. Just because I have a lot of money and you don’t, I don’t ever want you to think that I have more than you. This house, and everything in it is ours. That’s why I make sure to put your name on everything we buy.”
“I know, but let’s face it. This house is not mine. If God forbid something were to happen to you, I’ll lose everything. There’s no way I could afford the upkeep on all of this.”
“Um…yes you could. Babe, if God forbid something happened to me, you inherit everything I have. You’ll have no problem with the upkeep.”
Matt stared at David in disbelief. “What?”
“What did you think? We may not have a marriage license, but I consider us as good as married. If something happens to me, my will states that you get everything,” David explained.
“But…you can’t do that.”
“Why?” David asked. “Where did you think my money would go?”
“I…don’t know. I never thought about it before because I can’t imagine living without you…I guess I just figured it would go back to your family. It’s Jackson money.”
“No, it’s David Jackson money and since you’re my partner as long as I’m still breathing, it’s all yours.”
“I don’t know…”
“Don’t know what?” David questioned. “Let me ask you something. If I was a woman and we were married, would you question inheriting everything I had?”
“No, probably not,” Matt admitted.
“And if God forbid something happened to you, would you expect me to get what’s yours?”
“Well yeah, but somehow my CD collection from the early 2000’s isn’t quite the same as inheriting millions of dollars.”
“Babe, how many times have I told you that the money means nothing to me. I mean, I guess it would be weird for me if I suddenly had to live paycheck to paycheck, especially if those paychecks looked anything like yours,” David teased. “But money isn’t a big deal to me. It’s just something that I’ve always had, and now it’s yours, too. It should be used for what you need as well as what I need, and I hate that you keep refusing it.”
“You spend money on me all the time,” Matt pointed out.
“I’m not talking about food shopping or taking you out for a meal. You spend your money on that, too. I’m talking about you still driving the truck that your parents bought you when you turned sixteen. I’ve been wanting to bring this up for months now, but I could never find the right time. I want you to let me buy you a new truck.”
“Absolutely not!” Matt exclaimed. “I
know my truck is old and starting to fall apart…and I’m going to need another
one soon. I’ve been saving money for a down payment, and I will finance the rest
and get a new one when it’s time.”
“You are not financing a truck,” David insisted. “You are not going to pay interest on a vehicle when I have money in the back. That’s just ridiculous.”
“Babe, I don’t know how to make you understand this, but I don’t want to be kept by you. I’m a grown man with a career of my own. If I need something, I can buy it myself,” Matt insisted.
David tried to hold back his frustration. They had been having the same argument for five years, ever since they officially moved in together, and it was really starting to get old. “I wouldn’t be keeping you and I really hate when you imply that. We are partners in this relationship. Equal partners. Which means that everything we have is ours.”
David leaned in and covered Matt’s mouth with his own. They hadn’t had more than a moment alone together in days and the last thing he wanted to do was argue once again about money. Matt must have agreed because he immediately opened his mouth and invited David inside as he reached for his pants, struggling to get them opened. David chuckled and pulled back.
“I’ll race you to the bedroom…last one there is on the bottom,” Matt laughed as he jumped up and headed upstairs.
David was close on his heels but knew he would never be the winner. Being a police officer kept Matt in perfect shape, and that was something David was never going to have a problem with. Besides, top or bottom didn’t matter. As long as they were together, David was happy.
“So, do you want to do something tonight? We haven’t been able to spend any real time together in days,” Kaleb said as laid back on his bed with the phone to his ear.
“Okay, what do you want to do? I’m okay with anything,” Sophia replied. She was curled up in the giant bean bag chair in her bedroom, sucking on a lollypop. “I chose last time we went out.”
Kaleb had to think for a minute. “Well, I know you saw it at a fancy screening party, but I’d like to go see Chris’s movie. It’s playing down at the Regal. Wanna go?”
Sophia smiled. Chris was one of her favorite people and she was very proud of his movie. She had no issue going with Kaleb. “That works for me. Can you get the car, or do we need a ride? Brian and Justin have been hanging around all day so between them, Chris and Zan, I’m sure I can get us a ride.”
“I’ll talk to T. He’s still a little leery of me taking the car by myself since I’ve only had my license for a few weeks. I can’t wait until I can get a car of my own.”
“Okay, well let me know when you know. I’ll look up the times and text you once I get the green light from Zan,” Sophia told him.
“Okay, I’ll talk to you in a bit. Love you,” Kaleb said.
“Love you, too.”
Kaleb smiled to himself as he ended the call and was surprised to see Trent in the doorway. “Hey, what’s up?”
“Who were you just talking to?” Trent demanded.
“Who were you just on the phone with?” Trent asked again.
“Um…just a friend,” Kaleb replied
softly. “T, what’s going on?”
“Look, I know you’re sixteen and I’m trying to give you space, but I don’t like you hiding things from me and you’re way too young to be having sex.”
Kaleb’s jaw dropped at Trent’s tone. In the last six years, he never heard the man raise his voice. “I’m…I’m not having sex, I swear.”
“They why do you have condoms?”
“I don’t know…I mean, I just…I only bought them in case…but I swear, I have no intention of using them,” Kaleb assured him.
Trent saw the sincerity in Kaleb’s eyes and calmed down a bit. “Buddy, I think we need to talk.”
“Am I in trouble? I swear I haven’t done anything wrong. I promised you I would at least wait until I was eighteen to have sex and I plan on keeping that promise. But that doesn’t mean that I’m not going to date and have girlfriends, so I just thought that maybe it would be best to have a box just in case hormones took over…I thought it was the right thing to do. I wasn’t hiding them, though. Obviously, since you saw them.”
“Come with me. Let’s go sit in the living room and talk. You’re not in trouble and I apologize for raising my voice. I should know enough to trust you,” Trent said.
They walked down the hallway of their small two-bedroom apartment and made themselves comfortable in their cozy, little living room.
“What do you want to talk about?” Kaleb asked once they were settled.
“Kaleb, do you think I’m hard to talk to?”
“What? No, of course not,” Kaleb insisted. “I’ve always told my friends how lucky I am. You’re like a father to me, but better. I know I can talk to you about anything.”
“Then how come you haven’t told me you have a girlfriend? Or boyfriend, I don’t want to assume,” Trent said with a smile.
Kaleb laughed. “Girlfriend. Um…I wanted to tell you, but it’s complicated. And she doesn’t really want her family to know.”
“Okay, I don’t really like that she’s not honest with her family, but that doesn’t explain why you couldn’t tell me. I promise not to say anything to anyone. And what are the chances that I would ever even see her family?”
Kaleb knew he was cornered, and as much as he didn’t want to open up a can of worms and make his and Sophia’s relationship harder, he knew he wasn’t going to be able to lie. “100%,” Kaleb said softly. “It’s Sophia.”
“Sophia? Sophia who…” Trent said before realization set it. “Sophia Reyes?”
“Please don’t freak out,” Kaleb pleaded.
“Look, it just happened, alright? I mean…I started noticing I liked her more than just as a friend about a year and a half ago, but I tried to ignore it. I mean…she’s my best friend. And I didn’t want Chris and Zander to kill me. But…I just couldn’t ignore it anymore. I love her, T,” Kaleb admitted.
“Oh Kaleb,” Trent sighed. “How long have you guys been together?”
“Seven months. And I swear, we’re not having sex. We’re too young to be having sex. We talked about it and agreed to wait for at least a couple of years.”
“Buddy, she needs to tell Chris and Zander. This isn’t just some innocent little crush. Not if you guys are talking about love, and our family dynamic is going to complicate things,” Trent pointed out.
“I know, but…if we tell Chris and Zan, we’re never going to be able to spend any time alone. You know how overprotective they are,” Kaleb replied. “Especially Chris.”
Trent smiled. He remembered how adamant Brian and Justin were when they first started dating. “I know they can be a bit tough, but it still needs to be addressed.”
“But why? If Sophia was dating anyone else, she wouldn’t tell them about it.”
“No, she probably wouldn’t…but Chris and Zan wouldn’t trust some random kid the way they trust you. They’re going to find out eventually anyway. Wouldn’t it be easier if you told them yourselves? They would probably respect you a lot more if you were honest with them.”
Kaleb thought about it for a few moments. “I don’t know…I’ll talk to Sophia. But please don’t say anything yet. Give me some time to figure things out. Please.”
“I’ll give you a little time, but we are going to talk about this again,” Trent insisted.
“Thanks T. Is there any chance of you letting me take the car tonight? Sophia and I want to go to the movies.”
Trent suddenly had visions of Kaleb and Sophia parking somewhere like he used to do when he was a teenager and shivered at the thought. “I’m not really ready to let you go out on your own like that yet. How about if I drive you and pick you up?”
Kaleb looked at him suspiciously. “You’re not just doing that to be a chaperone, are you?”
“Who me? No, of course not,” Trent laughed. “Just let me know what time you want to go.”
“Fine,” Kaleb replied. “Sophia is going to text me the movie times once she gets permission to go. I’ll let you know. Thanks, T.”
Trent waited until Kaleb was back in his room before he leaned his head back and sighed. He knew Kaleb was seeing someone, but he never once considered it was his best friend. He had a feeling this situation was going to cause a lot of problems in the future, but he couldn’t help but smile to himself. If his son had to fall in love with someone at such a young age, at least it was someone like Sophia. Trent himself couldn’t have picked a better match. He just hoped that their relationship didn’t implode and ruin their friendship one day.
Aiden had just gotten out of the shower when he heard his phone ring. Racing to his bedroom with a towel around his waist, he smiled when he saw who was on the other end.
“Hey Babe, how’s it going?”
“Tell me again why I let you talk me into this?” Derek asked as he laid down on his hotel room bed with a smile. Just hearing Aiden's voice brightened up his day.
“You agreed to it because you know it’s the right thing to do,” Aiden replied, and he sat down on the edge of the bed. “Have you been to the hospital yet?”
“No, not yet. I told my aunt that I would be there later tonight. I wanted to get settled into my hotel first,” Derek told him. “I really wish you were here with me.”
“Me too. You’re the one who insisted that I stay in Arizona and spend time with my family and friends. I would have much rather gone with you,” Aiden assured him.
Derek thought back to the phone call he had gotten a few days before Christmas. His parents had been visiting his mother’s sister a few weeks back and were in a bad car accident. His father had been pronounced dead at the scene. His mother had survived but had been in a coma ever since. The doctors weren’t sure if she was going to make it. It had taken almost two weeks for his aunt to find Derek and when she did, she had tried to guilt him into going to see his mother. As far as Derek was concerned, his parents had died the day they kicked him out for being gay. He had refused to even entertain the idea of taking the trip to Nevada, but Aiden and his psychobabble had eventually convinced him that he needed the closure if nothing else. Now he was four hundred miles away from the man he loved and hated every minute of it.
“I wasn’t going to ruin your time with your family over this. My mother is not worth it,” Derek insisted. “What are you up to?”
“Well, I just got out of the shower and I’m sitting here in a towel, dripping wet,” Aiden told him.
Derek smiled at the image his brain conjured up. “Just the thought has me hard, babe. God, I wish I could touch you right now.”
“Settle down,” Aiden chuckled. “You’re
only going to be gone for a few days.”
“Yeah, but a few days away from you is going to feel like forever,” Derek said softly. “I miss you already.”
“I miss you, too,” Aiden replied. “I know you have a lot going on in your head, have you given any thought to the house?”
“Yeah, I’m just not sure if I’m ready to leave apartment living. I mean, hell…if we buy a house, who’s going to cut the grass and clean the gutters?” Derek said as he tried the hold back a laugh.
Aiden sighed. Derek had moved into Aiden’s apartment over two years earlier and it was getting a little cramped. Aiden had wanted to buy a house right away but decided to wait and make sure that their living together worked out before investing in such a huge commitment together. But it was almost time for Aiden to renew his lease and it seemed like the perfect time to take the next step together. In the last two months, Aiden had a realtor showing them house after house in their price range and Derek found fault in every one of them. They had just seen one that morning that Aiden fell in love with on the spot, but they hadn’t had time to discuss it because Derek had to get to the airport. Aiden was beginning to think that maybe Derek was just afraid of the commitment buying a house together would be. “We can hire someone to do those things if you want.”
This time Derek did laugh. “I’m kidding. I love it!”
“Seriously? Why didn’t you say something earlier?”
“Because the first rule of buying a house is never jump on first impressions. While I was waiting for my plane, I did some research on the area, you know taxes and school zones…”
“School zones?” Aiden asked incredulously. “I thought you said you didn’t want kids.”
“I did say that…but that was before I fell in love with someone who does. I’m not saying yes, but if it means that much to you, it’s something that I’d really consider in the future which makes school zones important.”
Aiden smiled as a rush of love washed over him. “So, should we make an offer?”
Derek chuckled. “I already did. As soon as I got checked in.”
“So you really love it?”
“Babe, it’s perfect for us,” Derek replied. “I know I’ve been a pain in the ass lately, turning down every house we saw. I wasn’t trying to be difficult. None of the others felt like home. This one does.”
“Okay, so I guess this is it,” Aiden said. “Now we just have to wait and hope that the owners take our offer.”
“Melissa is going to let us know as soon as she hears.”
“I love you so much,” Aiden said softly.
“I love you, too,” Derek replied. “Now I’d better get in the shower and wash the airplane air off me. I’m meeting my aunt at six.”
“Okay, good luck. I’ll talk to you tonight but call me if you need me before then. I’ll keep my phone by my side all night.”
“Thanks. I’ll talk to you in a bit.”
Once the phone call ended, Aiden finished drying himself off, got dressed, and then made his way to the kitchen to figure out what to do for dinner. He was trying to decide between chicken and fish when his phone rang. He glanced at the screen and stopped in his tracks. It was the last person he ever expected to hear from.
“Hey…Aiden. How are you? It’s…um…it’s Jason.”
Just hearing Jason’s voice on the other end of the phone caused a reaction he hadn’t expected. They had seen each other a lot over the last six years. It couldn’t have been avoided considering they traveled in some of the same circles. And they had always been pleasant with each other, said hello and goodbye and even had conversations regarding current events and latest movies. They just kept things very casual and only interacted when they were surrounded by everyone. Having Jason call him was definitely out of the blue, and by the sound of Jason’s voice, Aiden knew it wasn’t a social call.
“Hey Jason, is everything okay?”
Jason laughed humorlessly. “Is it that obvious that something is wrong?”
Aiden chuckled. “Yeah, kind of…plus, you haven’t called me since the day we broke off…whatever it was that we were doing.”
“I’m sorry, this was a mistake. I shouldn’t have called you. I’ll see you around…”
“Hey…Jas, it’s okay. Talk to me. What’s going on?”
“I don’t know…I just…my life is a mess and I’ve been to therapist after therapist, and no one seems to be able to help. I was thinking that maybe you…it was stupid. I’ll figure something else out. I’m sorry to have bothered you.”
“Jason, you’re not bothering me. I told you back when we ended things that I would always be here if you needed me. Now what’s going on?”
And then the damn broke and Jason told him everything that had been going on in his life from the time he and Zac moved in together right up until Macy left and he admitted to Zac that he was still in love with him. By the time he was done, he was exhausted.
Aiden didn’t interrupt while Jason was pouring out his soul, but he wanted to. He couldn’t believe that after more than six years, the man was still having problems from his attack. Going through something so horrific was hard to overcome, but it could be done. Aiden was kicking himself once again for allowing his feelings for Jason to get out of hand and hinder the young man’s recovery. “Okay, listen…the center is closed for the week, but I don’t want to wait. Can you meet me there tomorrow morning? Around ten?”
“Um…yeah, but you don’t have to…”
“Jas, I promised you when we met that I would help you through this and I’m sorry things between us interfered with that, but I’m here now and I still want to help you. I wish you had called me sooner.”
“I didn’t want to…after what happened between us…what I did to you…”
Aiden sighed. “Jas, you didn’t do anything other than end a relationship that wasn’t working for you. Yes, I was sad, but I knew going in that you were in love with Zac and would most likely end up back with him. And that’s in the past now. Derek and I are very happy together and we just made an offer on a house. There is nothing to feel bad about. I’m happy.”
Jason smiled. “I’m happy for you. I don’t really know Derek that well obviously, but he seems like a good guy.”
“He is. Now, are you meeting me in the morning?”
“I’ll be there.”
“Great, I’ll see you then.”
Once Aiden ended the call, he went back to the kitchen to start preparing the fish he decided on, while he thought about Jason. The poor guy was still struggling and that broke his heart. He hoped he’d be able to help him work through his fears before he ended up losing his relationship with Zac completely…although the fact that Zac was still there showed he really loved Jason. They were both going to need that love to get through what was to come.
End of part 6
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