Chapter 42 – Life Goes on – Finale

“Penny for your thoughts,” Braylin whispered into Trebor’s ear as they stood watching the waves break against the shore.

“What?” Trebor murmured as if he’d been a million miles away. “Sorry,” he gave Braylin a lopsided smile “I was thinking about Blake and hoping my parents are able to handle him for the night.”

“I can’t believe he’ll be five years old tomorrow,” Bray shook his head as if he could slow time down. Taking Trebor’s hand in his, he gave it a squeeze before turning to stroll along the beach. “Does he know I’m home?”

Trebor shook his head, chuckling a little “not unless my parents can’t keep a secret.” He couldn’t imagine his parents telling Blake and ruining the surprise. “I imagine if they told him we wouldn’t have a moment’s peace until he got to see you. You’re part of his surprise tomorrow.”

“I can’t wait to see him,” Bray stopped to gaze out over the water, he wrapped an arm around Trebor, pulling him close. “He must be getting so big now.”

Leaning his head on Bray’s shoulder Trebor could hear the wistful almost yearning note in Bray’s voice. “We don’t have to wait until tomorrow. We could give him an early birthday present.”

“And ruin his surprise,” Bray shook his head. “It’s alright. I can wait.”

“It isn’t fair to you though,” Trebor pulled away enough to lift a hand up to caress Bray’s cheek. “I didn’t realize how difficult it would be for you to wait. You’ve been away so long. I shouldn’t have asked you to wait to see your son just because I thought it’d be a great birthday present.”

“Hey,” Bray tilted his forehead down making contact with Trebor’s, his arms slid around his husband’s waist. “I can wait,” he soothed, not wanting Trebor to worry or feel like he was being unfair to him. “It’s a wonderful idea. I for one can’t wait to see his surprise. It’d be even better if you’d let me jump out of the cake.”

“You sure?” he asked searching Bray’s face and eyes for any sign that he was just saying this to protect his feelings.

“Positive,” he kissed across Trebor’s face as if rediscovering long forgotten territory. His mouth hovered a fraction over Trebor’s lips “tonight is our time. There are things I want to do to you that I’ve been dreaming of doing to you for months.”

Bray’s words sent something like an electrical shock through Trebor’s body. “In that case I can hardly wait to get home.” 

“Why wait?” Bray asked, closing the miniscule gap between their lips.

Pulse racing, breathing hard Trebor could feel the synergy between them awakening the lust he’d always had for this man, his husband. No one else had ever awakened these desires in him. Breaking the kiss even though he craved to feel Bray’s hands all over his body, “Bray no, we can’t.”

“Why not?” he asked in a sultry voice, “it’s not like we haven’t done it before.”

“Yes I know but…” even as the words slipped from his lips Trebor found himself scanning the beach. 

“You know you want to,” Bray nuzzled his nose behind Trebor’s ear inhaling the spicy ocean fresh scent he’d missed so much. The scent he missed in the sheets he slept on in that lonely little apartment so many miles from the man he missed more than hockey. Taking a tiny step back, taking Trebor’s hands in his, lifting them to his lips, kissing the fingertips as he gazed intently into Trebor’s eyes. “We can wait until we get home. It’s alright.”

Seeing the desire, the lust making Bray’s eyes sparkle Trebor almost found himself nodding but there was something else there too. Something deeper than instant gratification it was like two halves that belonged together, it was an almost irresistible pull drawing them together. A tiny smile tugged at his lips “what if I don’t want to wait?”

Squeezing Trebor’s hands Braylin smirked “I knew the moment you suggested a walk along the beach this is what you wanted.”

Shaking his head Trebor wanted to deny the thought had ever crossed his mind but it would have been a pointless lie. He knew the thought had been in the back of his mind. He knew exactly where they were. Taking Bray’s hand in his he led him to the spot he secretly considered their special spot along the beach not far from his grandparents house. It was a spot they’d been before, stopping he turned towards Bray “what can I say? You know me all too well.”

“I do,” Braylin agreed. He brought his hands up, holding Trebor’s face gently between his palms savoring the look of adoration shining back at him. The love he knew he couldn’t live without “I’ve missed you so much.” He brought his mouth to Trebor’s in a kiss that seemed to be saying thank you for loving me and it held a promise that they’d go on loving each other.

Panting as they broke the kiss long enough for Bray to pull Trebor’s shirt off. “I’m so glad you’re home to stay,” Trebor murmured, melting into Bray’s touch and giving himself fully into the moment.


“Daddy! Daddy!” Blake cried running to greet Bray with his arms open wide.

Hugging his son close, “you’ve gotten so big,” Bray blinked a few times in quick succession 

“I’m a big boy now,” Blake asserted squirming from his dad’s arms. “I’m in school now.”

“Not so fast,” Trebor shook his head “you’re not in school for another few months.”

“But I’m five,” Blake raised his hand up, fingers spread wide.

“Yes you are,” Garrett winked down at his grandson. “But you need to be patient for the next school year to start.”

“But I…” he crossed his arms in front of his chest. Stomping his foot “I want to go now.”

Garret shook his head staring down at the little boy. “Don’t you want to spend time with your daddy? You won’t be able to if you went to school now.”

A deep frown burrowed between Blakes eyes as he thought over his grandpa’s words. “I guess school can wait,” he grudgingly agreed, “but,” he held up a finger before anyone interrupted him, “only for a few months.” He beamed around at the gathered adults before nodding as if congratulating himself for getting the upper hand he ran over to join his cousin Marcy and her little brother Ben.

“What was that all about?” Bray demanded watching his son walk away.

Trebor wrapped his arms around his husband from behind, “that’s our little boy growing up and no longer needing us.”

Bray wasn’t sure he liked the sound of that. Pressing his lips to Trebor’s cheek “if it makes you feel any better, I still need you.”

Looking up with a soft but sad smile Trebor said “that’s good but it’s not the same.”

“Well you can always have another,” Toby suggested, joining the group.

“Dad,” Bray cried, surprised that his parents had made the trip to the island. “I didn’t know you were coming.”

“Surprise,” Trebor chuckled, glad he had thought to invite Bray’s parents. 

“Our grandson said he couldn’t turn five without us,” Bray’s other dad said.

“Since going to school is so important to him we couldn’t be the ones to keep him from turning five,” Toby added with a grin. 

“So here we are,” his husband added, waving his arms as if to say ta da at the end of a magic act.

“I knew it,” Bray chuckled, giving his parents a hug each, savoring the feel of the arms around him knowing there had been a time when he hadn’t been this close to his parents and he had missed them. “You love the little rascal more than me.”

“Every parent thinks their grandchildren are perfect,” Verity announced as she joined them carrying the birthday boy’s cake out and setting it on a table.

“Is that how it works,” Trebor asked, moving over to help her.

“Of course,” she gave him a quick peck on the cheek murmuring thank you. “We know all too well our own children aren’t perfect. Perfection skips a generation.”

Raising an eyebrow “that implies you were perfect.”

“Of course,” she pinched his cheek, making him squirm away from her. “Let’s get this birthday party started.”


Trebor looked when he heard Braylin come home. “How did it go?” he asked worry flickering across his face when Bray silently slipped into a chair like he weighed more than his legs could carry. “You did get the job, didn’t you?” he asked moving from the couch where he had been aimlessly flipping through channels waiting for Bray to come home. 

Kneeling in front of Bray he reached up gently caressing Bray’s cheek. “It’s just one interview. You’ll get the next one.” His chest felt heavy as his heart ached for Bray. He knew how much Bray had wanted this assistant coaching position.

Unable to meet Trebor’s gaze, Bray lowered his head into his hands. “Someone else beat me to it.”

“Who,” Trebor wanted to know. “Whoever it was can’t be as qualified as you are. Who else could they have found who is a pro athlete?”

Bray’s lips twitched at the resentful tone in Trebor’s words. “Maybe you should let them know what a big mistake they made.”

“I should,” he agreed with half a mind to do exactly that. Setting a hand on Bray’s knee he asked “what are you going to do now?”

“There’s only one thing I can do,” Bray lifted his chin up, his eyes full of mischief.

Raising an eyebrow Trebor asked “what did you do? Tell me you didn’t TP the principal’s house or something equally juvenile.”

Bray chuckled a little “would I do that?” 

“Yes,” Trebor cried, squelching the urge to headslap the bowed head. “What did you do?” he demanded, wondering what the gossip mongers would be saying the next time he went shopping. “You know I’m going to find out eventually.”

“I didn’t do anything dreadful,” Bray chuckled, joining Trebor on the floor. “Unless you call accepting a job as dreadful.”

Trebor’s mouth flopped open a moment before being snapped shut. “But you said…” frowning heavily at his husband “you said you didn’t get the coaching job.”

“I didn’t,” he agreed, grinning at Trebor, eyes sparkling, enjoying his little joke.

Trebor let out an irritated growl “you’re not making sense. Did you or did you not get the job?”

Shaking his head, Bray couldn’t answer the question for laughing so hard. Once he caught his breath he explained “I was offered a different position. A better one.”

Trebor gave Bray a puzzled look “I don’t understand.”

“The assistant coaching position was already filled,” Bray explained, “so they offered me the position of head coach instead.”

“Really?” Trebor asked suspicion heavy in his tone, half suspecting he was the brunt of another joke.

“Yep,” Bray confirmed, nodding “guess who the assistant coach is?”

Shaking his head still trying to absorb the news “I haven’t a clue.”

“John,” Bray said as if he were about to burst if he didn’t get it out. “He and Wally moved to the island and the school saw their chance to have not one pro athlete but two. So we’ll be working together again.”

“That’s great,” Trebor was happy that Bray would have his friend so close. “We’ll have them to supper once they’re settled in their new home.”

“And guess what else?”

“I don’t think I can take too many more surprises,” Trebor said leaning into Bray knowing that he had one surprise to add to all the ones Bray had given him.

“John’s pregnant. He had the male pregnancy procedure and it worked.” Bray couldn’t be happier for his friend.

“How far along is he?” Trebor asked.

Bray gave him a look that showed he suspected there was something more than curiosity behind the question. “I don’t know. Eight weeks or so. You’ll have to ask him to know for sure.”

A smile spread across Trebor’s face. “Then we’ll be due about the same time.”

“Due?” Bray asked, his face scrunched in confusion.

“I’m about eight weeks along,” Trebor said “I told you I had a surprise for you when you got home.”

Bray stared at him “but we’ve been so careful except…” his mind went back in time to when he first came home. The walk along the beach that ended in their spot, “oh,” he said softly looking over at Trebor.

Nodding Trebor chuckled “I guess we weren’t so careful that time.”

Placing a hand on Trebor’s stomach “are you okay with this?” They had discussed having more kids but they had both agreed they were content with Blake. “I know you wanted to focus more on your career now that I was home.”

Placing his hand over Bray’s, he nodded “I’m more than ok with it. This is a good thing.”

“We need to celebrate,” Bray declared with a mischievous glint in his eyes. He knew that Trebor knew what he meant when he wrapped his arms around his neck allowing Bray to lift him in the air. “It’s a good thing Blake is with his cousins for the weekend.”

“Aren’t you glad I suggested it?” Trebor asked as he was carried up the stairs to their bedroom.

“Mmmhmm,” Bray purred. “I married myself a very smart man.

Chapter 41 – Reunion

After practice John approached Braylin where he was changing into his street clothes. Pulling at his fingers he lifted red rimmed eyes “well…did you?”

“Yeah,” he grunted as he pulled his shirt over his head.

“And,” John prompted, impatient for answers.

Braylin raised an eyebrow, watching his friend closely “and he wants to talk to you.” He smiled softly watching the anxiety melt from his friend’s eyes.

“He’s okay then?” he asked. “He was just ghosting me.” 

Bray gave his friend a sharp look hearing the angry tinged words. “How much do you know about his injuries?”

Frowning John shrugged “what’s that got to do with anything?”

“A lot,” turning he slammed his locker door shut. Grabbing John’s arm, Bray led him from the noisy locker room.

“What’s the big idea?” John demanded pulling away from Braylin. 

“I need to tell you something without the others over hearing,” Bray explained.

“He doesn’t want to see me,” John’s face fell. “That’s it isn’t it? He just wants to tell me to get lost.”

Sighing a little, Bray wondered if he should just let John find out for himself. He doubted John would recover from the shock of seeing Wally arriving in a wheelchair would help the situation. “Calm down and quit jumping to conclusions.”

“I am calm,” irritation creeping across his face. 

Smiling with understanding, Bray knew the rollercoaster of emotions his friend must be experiencing at the moment. He knew from experience that it was even worse since John hadn’t had a drink in over 24 hours. “He wants to see you,” at least he hoped that was true. “It’s just that Wally was afraid of how you would react to seeing him in a …”

“What do you mean?” John shouted interrupting him “I love him. I don’t care what he looks like.”

Tilting his head to the side Bray gave his friend a long thoughtful look. “I don’t doubt that you do but I don’t think Wally knows that. He’s afraid that you’ll look at him differently once you see him, which is why I’m going to tell you first.”

“Tell me what?” John’s voice rose causing several people on the ice to look in their direction.

“Wally was paralyzed. From the waist down,” he explained. He watched the blood drain from his friend’s face as he continued “I’m sorry to be the one to tell you this. Wally’s in a wheelchair.”

“Oh” the single word seemed to explode from deep within him. “Oh,” he repeated a hand reaching out as if needing something to hold on to.

Bray moved in quickly, pulling John close, holding him as John absorbed the shock. “It’s going to be ok. You’ll see. Wally just needs to know you still love him.” He didn’t know if what he was saying was having any effect but he kept talking, hoping that it would help.


A couple of hours later Braylin sat alone watching as John paced back and forth between one picnic table and another. He down on his bottom lip to keep from telling his friend to calm down. It wouldn’t do any good. He’d said it before with little to no effect.

John came to a stop in front of Bray. “He’s not coming,” he crossed his arms in front of himself.

Bray could sense how guarded and defensive John was becoming. “He’ll come,”he assured John, hoping he wasn’t setting him up for disappointment. “Let’s give it ten more minutes and if he isn’t here then I’ll call him.”

Nodding John couldn’t keep the anxiety from clouding his eyes. His deepest fear was that Wally wouldn’t come. He was afraid Wally would be disappointed in him for having slipped up. Shoving his hands into his pockets he turned and started pacing again. He’d give anything for a drink.

Mumbling to himself as he paced between picnic tables. Turning, he tripped over his own feet, reaching out his hands to steady himself against a nearby tree. 


The familiar voice made his heart leapt into his throat. His head jerked upwards, gulping audibly “you … you came…”

A slight lifting of the corners of his lips brightened Wally’s face. “I almost didn’t…” His eyes swept across John taking in everything. The way he tried to hide the trembling of his hands. The puffy red rimmed eyes. “You look terrible.”

Grunting “I’ve been better.”

Turning his face away Wally said “yeah I know.”

“I didn’t mean…” falling to his knees he wrapped his arms around Wally desperate to keep him from leaving. “Please don’t go. I … I need you.”

“Need me,” he scoffed, “no one needs me. I’m worthless.”

Lifting his head from Wally’s lap “you’re not worthless.”

“I am,” he cried “I can’t work. I can’t do anything.” His fist pounded into the arms of this chair. “All I do is take up space. I wish I were dead.”

Wincing as if someone had slapped him, John’s eyes searched for Braylin as if he hoped he would tell him what to do. “You don’t mean that. There’s plenty you can do.”

“NO there isn’t,” he shook his head. “Everyday people stare at me like I’m some kind of freak show. They pat themselves on the back for holding a door open for me while their eyes look on me with pity.”

“That doesn’t make you nothing,” John protested. Licking his lips as his mind raced for something else to say. He croaked out something that didn’t even sound like a word before he snapped his mouth shut afraid of saying something insensitive or stupid.

“I should go,” Wally said, hands gripping the wheels attempting to back away. 

“No don’t go,” John pleaded, arms tightening around Wally refusing to let him go. 

“You’ve seen me,” Wally hissed. “You know I can’t offer you anything. I’m broken…”

“Stop saying that,” John snapped, releasing his hold around his waist. Lifting his hands he cupped Wally’s face between his hands “you’re everything to me. I don’t care what anyone thinks. You’re my everything.”

“But I…I can’t give you what you want.” He tried to move his face, to hide behind the hands holding it.

“What I want is you,” John said looking him in the eyes, refusing to let him hide.

“What about all of our plans? The family we wanted?” Wally protested, determined to show him that he was nothing. “I can’t have kids…” tears trickled down his face “I can’t give you anything…”

John rubbed his thumb across Wally’s face, drying the tears “what I want is right here. Everything else doesn’t mean anything without you.”

Sniffling Wally shook his head “but it was our dream…”

“Dreams change besides who says we can’t still have it all?” Lifting Wally’s chin up “unless you don’t want me anymore?”

“Why wouldn’t I?”

“I don’t know,” he placed a soft kiss on Wally’s forehead “maybe because I’m an alcoholic. Some people would even call me worthless.”

“You’re not,” Wally protested.

Pressing a finger to Wally’s lips “let’s not fight over who’s the most worthless.”

Chuckling a little “you’re right. What are we going to do now?”

“I think we should move in together,” John suggested “that way you can take care of me.”

“You do need quite a lot of care,” Wally acknowledged.

“I do,” he agreed. “Are you up for the job?”

“I’ll do my best,” this time when John slipped his arms around him Wally didn’t tense up at his touch.


It was almost midnight by the time Bray walked into the dark little apartment he was renting while he was in the city. Turning on a light his eyes were greeted by how empty the place was. He missed all the things he associated with a home. Most of all he missed his family. Glancing at the time he stifled a groan.

He should take a shower but if he did then he might not have time to call home. An image of Trebor lying on the bed waiting for his call made up his mind. He pulled his phone out, a tired hello greeted his ears as he set his phone down on the dresser as he began to get undressed. “Don’t sound so excited,” he teased, pulling his shirt over his head.

“Bray,” the disembodied voice perked up noticeably. “I was wondering if you were going to call tonight or not.”

“Would I miss a chance to hear your voice?” He chuckled a little “sorry I’m calling so late. It’s been a rough couple of days.”

“Tell me about it,” Trebor requested, his voice was soft and low.

“Is Blake in there with you?” he asked. 

“He misses you,” Trebor explained “tell me about your day.”

“Are you sure?” he asked “I know you have an early shift at the hospital and sleeping with Blake is going to be rough.” Blake was a restless sleeper who hogged the bed.

“Don’t worry I’ll carry him to his room before I go to bed,” Trebor said “besides you have practice in the morning and it’s later there than here.”

“Are you keeping tabs on me?” he chuckled glad to hear Trebor’s caring tone.

“Always,” he said, “how did things go? DId Wally show up?”

“He did and it went better than I hoped it would,” he went on to tell Trebor everything. “I think they really do care about each other.”

“That’s good right?”

“I hope so.” he sighed “it’s going to be difficult.”

“It will,” Trebor fell silent a moment before asking “what’s bothering you?”

“I just hope they’re not expecting too much,” he ran a hand through his hair. “I don’t want to see either one of them hurt anymore than they are already.”

“It’s a chance they’ll have to take,” Trebor said “If it’s something they both want they’ll both work at their relationship to make it work. If we can do it they can too.”

That brought a smile to Bray’s lips. “Yes we did,” his face contorted as he tried not to yawn.

“Go to bed,” Trebor ordered “We’ll talk more tomorrow night.”

“Alright,” he reluctantly agreed. “Love you.”

“Love you too sweetheart,” Trebor blew him a kiss over the phone.

Grinning, Bray turned the light off as he crawled into his bed. For the first time in his hockey career he wanted the season to speed by so that he could go home to his family. He never thought he could ever love something more than hockey. He was glad to admit he was wrong. There was definitely more to life than hockey.

Chapter 40 – Wally

Worried about his friend, Bray decided to spend the night on John’s couch. He lay on the too short couch staring up at the ceiling wondering if this was how his parents felt when he slid back into drinking. He’d be lying if he said he never craved a drink. There were many times over the years when the stress was so bad he wanted to drown in alcohol to make it all go away. More than once he found himself reaching for a case of beer in the supermarket or driving into the liquor store parking lot. The craving never went away. There were just days you didn’t notice it as much as others.

If he were in John’s shoes would he have gone back to former habits? If he had lost Trebor would he have tried to drown his sorrows away? He’d like to think he wouldn’t. He had Blake to think about but he’d known others who had been sober for twenty years who had lost their sobriety. It could happen to anyone. 

Throwing an arm across his eyes he tried to block out the light from the street light just outside the window. Giving up on trying to sleep he sat up, fished out his phone. Pulling up Wally’s number he wondered if maybe he should have tried harder to reach him. If he had maybe John … Shaking his head he could drive himself crazy with what ifs. Pressing the send button he waited with fingers crossed that this time he’d get an answer.

He let out an audible gasp when a hoarse raspy voice spoke in his ear. “Wally?” he asked not quite sure if the voice he heard belonged to the person he was calling.

“Yeah,” the voice grunted, “who is this?”

Grinning that his luck seemed to be holding “this is Braylin McGavin,” he introduced himself hoping Wally wouldn’t hang up on him. “Can we talk?”

“Do you know what time it is?” Wally asked, sounding none too pleased to be talking to him.

“Um,” he glanced at the time “sorry I didn’t realize.”

“Can we talk later?” Wally asked, yawning into the phone.

“Sure,” Braylin agreed “we can meet at 9:00 for breakfast? I know this great little cafe that serves the best pancakes.”

There was a slight pause while Wally seemed to be trying to decide what to do. “Yeah okay,” he agreed, sounding more resigned than happy.

“Great,” Braylin said with enthusiasm he didn’t feel. “I’ll see you there,” he said after agreeing on a place.


When Bray left John’s apartment the following morning John was still asleep. Closing the door Braylin let out a relieved sigh. He had hoped John wouldn’t know he left. He didn’t want to get John’s hopes up as he might not make anything better. He could make things a lot worse. He was trying to be optimistic but how could you when it’s been over four years.

He gave himself plenty of time to arrive early. He took the liberty of ordering coffee for the both of them. Ten minutes later he was beginning to wonder if Wally was going to stand him up. It was possible that Wally had forgotten the early morning arrangements but it was also entirely possible that he decided not to come.

Five more minutes ticked slowly by and Bray was thinking he should either leave or order something for himself. He raised a hand to wave the order waitress over when he noticed someone in a wheelchair struggling to open the door. Getting up, he held the door open as it seemed like everyone was content just to watch the man struggle.

“Wally?” he gasped, recognizing the man as he wheeled past him. “If I had known, I mean…” Bray struggled to string words together. How had he not known Wally was in a wheelchair? He had known he’d been hurt. Shot in the back but no one had said anything about this.  

“Surprise,” Wally mumbled as he rolled past Bray and into the crowded cafe. His cheeks flamed a brilliant red as curious eyes raked across him before hiding behind their menus.

“Um…” Bray was at loss for words. He didn’t even know if he should offer to help Wally or not. Deciding that the one thing he could do was flag down the waitress and request a different table. It was obvious that the booth where he had been sitting wasn’t going to be suitable for them. “Excuse me miss my friend and I will need a different table,” he requested once he was able to get her attention.

She stared at him, letting her eyes express how much his request irritated her. “Fine,” she snapped with barely contained anger “the least you could have done was to tell me when you first seated.”

“If I had known I would have,” he said as calmly as he could manage. “If it’s too much trouble we’ll just leave.”

Her demeanor relaxed a little upon his suggestion until a well dressed man stepped forward asking “is there a problem here?”

“No,” the waitress hastened to say before Bray had a chance to respond. “They’re just waiting for me to set a new table for them.” Glancing around the crowded room with a practiced eye “will that table in the corner be ok?”

“That will be fine,” Bray agreed, thankful that it was close to the door with enough room for Wally to maneuver his wheelchair in and out. Following the waitress he hoped their pancakes were better than their service was so far. When they were settled at the table Bray asked “was he the manager?”

“The owner,” she murmured, her lips curling a little as if the idea left a bad taste in her mouth. “What would you like to order?”

“Um,” Bray glanced towards Wally before saying “can we have menus please?”

Rolling her eyes “fine,” she walked away only to return with a food splattered plastic menu that she tossed at Braylin.

Before she could storm off Bray asked “and one for my friend.”

As if he had asked her to move the world she grabbed another menu. She tossed it in the direction of their table forcing Bray to pick it up from the floor where it fell short. He watched with a bemused expression on his face as she turned with smiles to another table. Obviously she knew who were big tippers and who weren’t. Handing the menu to Wally “we don’t have to stay here. Their pancakes aren’t worth this.”

Wally was staring at the floor “I hate this. People pretend not to see you or they stare open mouthed like you’re some kind of freak show. Then there are the ones who think your IQ went down to zero because you’re in a wheelchair and they treat you like a child.”

Braylin nodded. He’d seen it happen to ex-hockey players who had been hurt on the ice. He didn’t understand why people thought less of someone just because they were in a chair or walked with a crutch or walker. They were still the same person they had always been; their bodies just couldn’t function the way they used to.

“I’m really not that hungry,” Wally lifted his chin up looking at Bray for the first time.

“That settles it then.” Bray scooted his chair out “Let’s go. There’s a park not too far away.” Standing he tossed some money on the table to cover his coffees. He could feel the displeased eyes of the waitress following them to the door. Probably thought that they had wasted her time. They did but it was her fault. If she had treated them better they would have stayed. She only had herself to blame.


They moved along the sidewalk each locked inside their own thoughts. Bray tried to ignore the many stares from passing strangers. He had half a mind to ask them if they’d never seen a guy in a wheelchair before. His lips thinned with the effort it took to keep his mouth shut. Nearing the park Bray asked “is that why you broke up with John? Refused to take his calls? Ghosted him?”

Wally let his chair coast to a stop while he thought of a reply. “I was wondering when you’d ask,” he said once he came to a stop.

“That’s why isn’t it?” Bray continued coming to a stop in front of Wally. “You have to know John wouldn’t have thought any less of you. I know I don’t. You saved my life. My son’s life. Gave Trebor the means to save all our lives.”

Wally shrugged, staring glumly at his feet. He didn’t want to hear how he saved lives, not when he wished he were dead instead of trapped inside a body that didn’t work anymore.

Bray snapped his mouth shut sensing some of the turmoil rolling off of the other man. “It has to feel unfair that after everything you did that fate repaid you like this.” He wanted to say he’d trade places but would he? He couldn’t imagine living his life like that. But if it meant his son or Trebor would live? He’d like to think he would consider it a fair exchange.

Wally made a sound like a strangled sob. “I can’t have kids. Everything I had done before the case was ripped to shreds by the bullet that severed my spine.” He pressed a hand over his mouth as if trying to hold  in the sobs that were shaking his entire body. “I wanted to start a family with John and now…”

Bray knelt beside him resting a hand on Wally’s shoulder. “I’m sorry…”

“We had so many plans,” Wally continued. “We were waiting until after John retired from playing hockey then I’d take a leave of absence. Get married. Start our family.” His crumpled with fresh tears “now none of that’s going to happen.”

“Why not?” Bray asked.

“Why?” Wally blinked at Bray like the answer should be obvious. “I just told you. I can’t have kids.”

“Yeah you told me but that doesn’t mean you can’t get married or have a family.” He shook his head “It might be a little more difficult than you planned but there are ways to make your dream come true. You just have to quit being sorry for yourself.”

“Yeah right,” he snapped but there was a spark of hope that wasn’t there before.

“You could adopt,” Bray pressed on giving him options. He put up a hand when Wally opened his mouth to argue with him. “I know your condition might make things more difficult for you to adopt but it’s possible. Plus you have friends willing to help you and don’t forget about John.”

“What about him?” Wally asked unsure where this was leading.

“Why can’t he get the procedure done if having biological children is what you want?” 

“I don’t know,” he murmured, “I hadn’t thought of that. But it still might not work. I might not be able to, you know.”

“It’s something you could discuss with your doctor,” Bray asserted. “The thing is there are options but…” he paused watching Wally a moment before adding “you have to talk to John first.”

“He hates me,” his shoulders sagged at the thought of facing John.

“If that was true I wouldn’t be here,” Bray chuckled at the way Wally’s chin jerked up. “I could have just left you a message thanking you for what you did for me and my family. John’s my best friend. I want him to be happy and I think you make him happy.”

Absorbing what Bray was telling him Wally asked “do you think he’ll give me another chance?”

“He might but you have to make the first move. You have to reach out to him. Talk to him.”

Nodding “will you be there?”

He could see how much Wally needed to have someone there that he agreed even though he’d rather not. He was already involved ever since he agreed to do this for John. “Alright I’ll be there but it’s up to you and John. I can’t make this decision for either of you.”

Chapter 39 – Falling off the Wagon

Braylin glanced up at the sound of a nearby locker being slammed shut. “John,” he cried, his voice lifting in a question while his eyes watched his friend with concern.

John scowled over at Braylin “don’t say it?” he warned, grabbing his hockey stick and heading towards the door.

Bray heard the slightly slurred words and the dark rimmed eyes made him wonder if his friend was nursing one hell of a hangover. He recognized the signs. Knew that his friend had fallen off the wagon. Before John slipped through the exit door he called after him. “After practice how about you and I taking in an AA meeting? It’s been awhile for both of us.” He made it a suggestion, careful to keep his words light, without heat or demand.

John stopped, hand on the door, turning slightly his mouth curled “yeah ok.” What came out sounded more like grunts, lacking any real enthusiasm or conviction. 

Joining John by the door Braylin reached out, squeezing his shoulder. “What’s up? Talk to me.”

Jerking from his touch John glared at him before turning and stumping from the locker room without saying another word.

Staring after him Braylin sighed before following him onto the ice. For a second there he thought John was going to hit him. Absently he skated on the ice, his mind trying to figure out why John was mad at him. The whole situation was dredging up uncomfortable memories from the past. A past where he was the one lashing out at his friends and family and coming into practice feeling as if his head were about to fall off. 

During practice he felt as if he were on autopilot. Going through the motions and not much else. His mind was on his friend. His insides twisting with worry. The more he worried the more certain he was that he was right. The question now was how he could help his friend get back on track.

After practice Braylin kept a wary eye on John, afraid he’d try to leave without telling him. It had been something Bray himself had done in the past when someone offered to take him to a meeting. Despite his care he did almost miss him as John finished before him and made a beeline towards the door. “John,” he called out, “wait up.”

John seemed to hesitate at the door before he turned and glared at Braylin. His eyes shifted as if he had been caught with his hand in the proverbial cookie jar. “I know I said I’d go but I um…” He shrugged, staring at the floor unable to meet Bray’s eyes “something came up.” He took a couple of steps, backing towards the door ready to make his escape.

“John, please,” Braylin blurted, afraid he’d just walk out the door “don’t do this.”

“Do what? Leave?” Anger turned his words harsh. “What do you think I’m going to do? Have a bender?”

Bray could hear the desperation beneath the anger tinged words. Taking a deep breath he said “isn’t that what you’re doing?”

“You’re the one who would know,” he snapped, turning and rushing from the locker room, slamming the door behind him. 

“Hey,” Braylin yelled after him, hastily shoving his feet into his untied shoes  and rushing after him. “I’m trying to help you,” he called after John who was almost to the exit.

Whirling around, eyes narrowed, lip curled “help me! Where were you when I needed you?”

Bray stopped dead in his tracks as he was buffeted by John’s raw emotions. “I didn’t … I don’t…”

“You don’t know, do you? My so-called best friend has no clue what kind of hell I’ve been living in,” John’s chest heaved as the words came spewing out of him.

Shaking his head, feeling as if he’d been slapped. “I’m sorry. I don’t know. I wish I did.” His mind was racing trying to see what he’d missed. What he was supposed to have known and didn’t.

A mirthless chuckles ripped through John’s chest as his eyes streamed with helpless tears. “How long have we been friends? How many times have I been there for you?” He swallowed hard, his Adam’s apple moving up and down “the least, the very least  you could have done was ask how I was doing.”

“I … I don’t …” Bray struggled to see through this maze, to see what he should have known but didn’t. It came crashing down all around him when he heard John murmure a name. A single name and four years suddenly dropped away. “Wally?” With a sickening lurch in the pit of his stomach he remembered how John had wanted to introduce him to someone. Someone he said had become his whole world “Wally was the one, wasn’t he?”

Ignoring the question John asked “do you know how difficult it was for me to pretend I didn’t know him or even like him? How hard it was to see him every day and know if I messed up it could mean someone I cared about could be hurt or killed?”

“What?” the simple word came out in a whisper. He couldn’t believe what he was hearing. “You knew? All this time you knew and you didn’t tell me. Didn’t warn me.”

“I couldn’t,” John lifted his hands as if beseeching him to understand. “I had to pretend just like Wally did. It meant his life.” A shudder visibly shook his entire body “they’d have killed him if they knew what he was.”

Crossing his arms Bray asked “and what was he?” 

“My boyfriend,” John raised his eyes, meeting Bray’s head on. “A gay man with the ability to reproduce his own biological children. Everything those purists hated. He was right there among them. Pretending to be one of them knowing that one slip up could mean his life. Trebor’s life.” Squeezing the bridge of his nose “do you know why he did it? He wanted to make a difference. To be part of making a better future for our kids. So that they could live without fear of who and what they are.”

Stunned, Bray felt as if he’d never seen John before, one of his dearest and oldest friends. “I didn’t know. I’m sorry.” It didn’t feel like it was enough.

Hugging his arms around himself John said “I wanted you to meet him…”

Nodding Braylin remembered the dinner plans, the almost giddy happiness that had seemed to surround John at the time. “You said he was the one. The one you wanted to grow old with.”

“I was going to ask Wally to marry me. I still do…” His face puckered as if he were on the verge of tears. “He won’t see me or take my calls. Not once after I came to pick him up from the hospital when they released him. Not since he told me to move on with my life. To forget about him.”

“I’m sorry,” and once more the feeling that it wasn’t enough swept through him. “Maybe I could talk to him. Maybe he’ll talk to me.” He didn’t think Wally would want to talk to him but he had to at least try.

“Would you?” The pathetic hope that lit up John’s eyes almost made Bray wish he hadn’t suggested it.

“If he takes my call. I’ll try.” It felt like a flimsy promise but he didn’t want to give his friend false hope. Putting an arm around John’s shoulders he said “for now let’s go to the meeting.”

John leaned into Bray as if he’d lost all his strength and needed to borrow some of his. “I tried. I really did but it got to be too much. Losing Wally. Then you and Trebor moved away. It didn’t seem to be worth the effort. I just wanted all the pain and loneliness to go away.”

“I know,” Bray whispered, holding him tight “I’m here now. You can lean on me.”

Chapter 38 – Visits From Daddy

A few months later Braylin walked into the kitchen to find Trebor staring out the window, a mixing spool in his hand. “Something interesting going out there?”

“What?” Trebor swung around splattering the wall and floor with batter.

Walking across the room Braylin put an arm around Trebor’s waist. “Sorry. I didn’t mean to startle you.”

Grasping Bray’s hand Trebor closed his eyes forcing himself to breathe normally. Leaning into his husband he said “you’d think I’d get getter better now that I’m home and she’s gone forever.”

Turning Trebor around Bray cupped his face between his hands. “You were terrorized by that woman since you were a baby. Those feelings and memories aren’t going to magically go away just because she’s no longer around to hurt you anymore. I wish they could because i want you to have peace of mind and be able to feel secure.”

“I do feel secure…” his voice faded. They both knew he was a nervous mess when Bray wasn’t there with him. His anxiety was at an all time high since Braylin had started training with the team and staying in the city now.

“It’s only for a few more months until the end of the season. Then I’ll be home for good.” Bray assured him, giving him a soft peck on the cheek. 

Nodding Trebor leaned into him as if he were trying to draw strength from him. “I know it’s only a few months even if it feels like forever.” He looked up, a slight smile on his face “I want you to enjoy your last season. You don’t have to worry about me. I promise.” He knew that Bray worried and he wished there was something he could do to prove that he didn’t need to. Biting his bottom lip, thinking a moment before adding “Dad and I have started going to a support group for trauma victims. It helps to talk. It helps knowing that what I’m feeling is normal and that I’m not alone.”

“That’s good,” Braylin sighed a little. He’d been worried that Trebor would find it overwhelming and cause his anxiety to escalate past the point he was able to handle. It came as a relief to find that it was helping him. He was still worried and hoped that it wouldn’t dig up too many memories from the past while he was gone and wouldn’t be able to help him. Glancing at the floor and the mess he inadvertently caused. “Want some help cleaning up?” he offered.

Trebor hesitated a fraction of a moment as he contemplated Bray’s offer. He hated sharing his kitchen space with anyone but it was an opportunity to have more time with Bray before he left in the morning. “Sure,” he resolutely turned his back on the congealing mess and left the warmth of Bray’s embrace to turn the stove on. “You can clean up the mess you made while I get the pancakes started. He knew he would mop the floor later and wipe down the walls once Bray left. 

“Well…I don’t know,” Bray sighed, lips twitching, “manual labor isn’t exactly in my job description.”

Snorting “mopping the floor isn’t manual labor.” The forgotten mixing spoon waving in the air sent batter onto the counter. Groaning a little “look what you made me do now.”

Shaking his head Bray said “me? I didn’t make you do anything.”

Groaning Trebor reached for some paper towels. “At this rate I’m going to have to make a whole new batch of batter by now most of it is either on the floor or the walls.” His half irritated expression melted upon seeing Bray’s twinkling eyes and knew he was trying not to laugh. “Maybe I’ll just make eggs and toast instead.”

Taking his hands Bray took the mixing spoon and set it down “or we can go out for breakfast.”

“But the mess…” Trebor wouldn’t feel right leaving the house even briefly like this.

“Get dressed and by the time you’re ready I’ll have the kitchen cleaned up,” Bray told him “then you can come back and clean it again.”

Trebor opened his mouth to protest but he snapped it shut just as quickly. They both knew he would so why pretend he wouldn’t? “Fine,” he said, “but it better be spotless.”


“I want Daddy,” Blake wailed, throwing one of his toys across the room.

Trebor jerked his head up from a medical journal he was reading. His heart leaped into his throat at the sudden unexpected sound. “Blakey Daddy went bye bye.”

“No,” he whined, eyes swimming with tears “want Daddy.”

“Daddy’s going to call us as soon as his flight lands,” Trebor explained. “You like talking to Daddy on the phone.”

“Not the same,” Blake sniffed, rubbing his eyes.

“No it’s not,” Trebor got up and sat beside his son on the floor. “Once Daddy is finished playing for the season he’s coming home for good. Then we’ll see him every day.” Even as the words came out Trebor knew it would make little difference to Blake. It felt like forever even to him. 

He watched his son wondering how he could make it easier on him. A four year old’s concept of time was very different to his. Simply telling him Daddy would be home for a visit in two weeks would make little sense to him when he wanted his daddy now. 

“Want Daddy home now,” Blake sobbed, confirming Trebor’s thoughts.

“He’ll come home,” Trebor assured him. He hated how distraught Blake was every time Braylin had to leave. It seemed to get worse every time they had to say goodbye. Not for the first time he wondered if it would be better if Braylin just stayed in the city instead of coming home for infrequent visits. Shaking his head he knew he simply couldn’t go for months without seeing Braylin and he didn’t want to deprive Bray of seeing his son. He just had to find a way to make it better.

“It’ll get better,” he murmured his mind working on how he could make it better for both of them.

Sobbing louder “want Daddy home.”

Listening to his son’s cries was almost enough to break his own resolve not to break down. Taking a deep breath he took his son’s hand and stood up. “Daddy is coming home in two weeks.” Getting on his knees in front of his son “do you know how long that is?”

Sniffing Blake shook his head “is that longer than tomorrow?”

Nodding Trebor scooped him up “I’m afraid so Bud.” He carried Blake over to one of the wall calendars. Pointing he said “this is today.” He moved his finger on the calendar “this is when we’ll see Daddy again.”

Blake frowned at the calendar, shaking his head “no want to wait. Daddy come home now.”

“I don’t want to wait either,” Trebor agreed with him. Taking a nearby pen he drew an ‘X’ inside the box “when all the boxes have an ‘X’ that’s when Daddy comes home to visit.”

“Too long,” Blake whined, snuggling into Trebor, sucking on his thumb.

“I know but it’s only for a little while.” Smiling down at his son he added “then we’ll have Daddy all the time. Would you like that?”

“Yes,” he nodded, sucking on his thumb in earnest now a habit he’d gotten into since Braylin had started training.

“Me too,” Trebor sighed, watching him for a moment. “Let’s go visit Grammy and Grampa. That’ll be fun.”

Blakes eyes lit up with interest. “Cookies?” he asked hopefully.

“I’m sure Grammy will have cookies for you,” he booped his son’s nose “but only if you ask nicely.”

“Me always say pweas,” he said grinning as the tears dried on his cheeks. 

“Good. Let’s go see Grammy,” Trebor grinned, chuckling a little at his son, thankful he was able to find something for his son to be happy about.

Chapter 37 – Honeymoon

“Penny for your thoughts,” Braylin murmured as he pressed his lips against Trebor’s cheek. 

Taking his eyes from the setting sun Trebor glanced over at his husband. A contented smile spread across his face “have I told you how thankful I am to have you in my life?”

Chuckling softly, Braylin wrapped an arm around Trebor, pulling him close. “I do recall you saying something like that when we got married. But I don’t mind hearing it again.”

Trebor lifted his left hand, letting the setting sun sparkle on his ring. “Best day ever,” he sighed like a contented cat leaning into Bray who was looking down at him eyes sparkling almost as much as the ring 

“I can make this day even better,” Braylin said waggling his eyebrows at Trebor

“Not out here, in the sand,” Trebor protested halfheartedly, pushing Bray’s hands away from the elastic waistband of his shorts.

An eyebrow rose as Braylin considered his words “I remember a time when a little sand didn’t bother you.” He lent forward, bruising his lips across Trebor’s muffling his ready protest.

Breaking the kiss even though he was panting for more. “I was younger than. A little sand in unmentionable places didn’t matter.”

Putting a finger beneath Trebor’s chin, he gently lifted it upward. “I’ll make you think you’re on a featherbed.”

“Oh really?” he asked, almost daring him to try and hoping he would.

Smirking a little when Trebor gasped in need as Bray’s fingers reached their goal. “You’re putty in my hands.”

Leaning into Bray, cheeks flushed as desire all but wiped out the knowledge they could be seen by anyone walking the beach. With the last semblance of self control ebbed away he whispered “not here. Someone might see.”

Sweeping Trebor into his arms “you’ll never change.”

Trebor wrapped his arms around Bray’s neck pressing his flushed face against Bray’s chest listening to the sound of his heart. “Would you want me to change?”

“Nope,” he shook his head walking towards a spot where he and Trebor had used a few years before for the same activity as now. It wasn’t exactly private but it was out of the line of sight from any casual beach walkers.


Sometime later Trebor lay on the cooling sand, snug in Bray’s arms staring up at the twinkling night sky. His fingers drew lazy circles in Bray’s chest and stomach, his ring catching the light of the light of the moon.

A happy contented smile stretched his lips. Moments like this he couldn’t believe how wonderful his life had turned out to be. He was married to the love of his life. This was the honeymoon he had dreamed about. It wasn’t anything extravagant. They both wanted a simple ceremony on the beach with their closest friends and family. Their son held the rings for them. Perfect.

He waved Bray’s hand away when it came up to boop his nose. “I wish this moment could last forever.”

“I thought you didn’t like sand in unmentionable places,” Bray teased, rolling over to gaze into Trebor’s eyes. 

His lips twitched a little “I’ve kind of gotten used to it; although a nice long shower would be good.”

“Want some company?” Bray asked.

Trebor could see desire light up Bray’s eyes and he felt a thrill run through his body. “You’re insatiable,” he chuckled while sitting up.

“It’s all your fault,” Bray accused light and teasing “always walking around with barely anything on. Showing so much skin.”

Shrugging, “why should I bother dressing when you’re just going to undress me,” he huffed.

Braylin’s eyes followed him as he stood up silhouetted against the night sky. “Beautiful,” he breathed, tempted to pull Trebor back down to the sand and ravish all over again. “Maybe you should make it a challenge for me.”

Raising an eyebrow “so it’s my fault you can’t keep your hands to yourself.” As he finished speaking he pulled his shorts up.

Nodding Brayling grabbed his own shorts and shoved his legs into them. “It kind of is.”

Mumbling something beneath his breath Trebor started to walk away. 

Hurrying up beside him “don’t go away mad.” 

“Who says I’m mad?” Trebor huffed.

“Well you look mad,” he said contritely. “Please don’t go away upset. Not when we only have a couple days left.”

They both knew after they picked up Blake from his grandparents they’d have precious little alone time before Bray would have to leave to practice for the beginning of hockey season. 

“I’m not mad,” Trebor repeated in a tense brittle voice.

“You sound mad.”

“Well I’m not,” Trebor snapped glancing over at his husband walking beside him. “Do you think I’m cheap?”

“That is the furthest thing from my mind,” he reached out, grabbing Trebor’s hand and turning him around. “You drive me wild no matter what you wear,” he paused before adding with a slight smirk “or don’t wear.”

“You’re incorrigible,” Trebor groaned “you’d probably say a look good in a burlap sack.” 

“Especially,” Braylin laughed at the bewildered half exasperated expression on Trebor’s face. “I love you. That’s all I need to know to make me crazy about you.”


The early morning sun shone bright through the half open curtains to fall full onto Bray’s face. Moaning, he covered his face with his hands mumbling, “we forgot again.” They’d forgotten every night of their honeymoon. It wasn’t something they ever worried about in Boroughsburg. In the city the tall buildings cut off direct sunlight from entering into their windows. “Trebor,” he reached for the otherside of the bed, his grasping hand coming up empty, confirming that he was alone.

Sitting up, the blankets falling around his waist. He sensed that something was weighing heavily on his mind but he didn’t want to pressure him into talking before he was ready. As their honeymoon came to a close he knew he’d have to broach the subject.

Shuffling across the room he retrieved his shorts from the day before. Chuckling to himself as he imagined Trebor’s reaction when he saw him in yesterday’s clothes, well shorts. Opening the door he went in search of his husband.

“Morning sleepy head,” Trebor greeted him when Bray stepped outside where he had been watching a couple of seagulls fight over a fish. 

“Have you eaten yet?” Bray asked, leaning down kissing the top of Trebor’s head. 

“Not yet,” he glanced up smiling “I was waiting for you to get up to make breakfast.”

Braylin saw the unasked question in Trebor’s eyes and said “we forgot to close the curtains last night.” They both knew he was not a morning person.

“Oh,” Trebor’s cheeks flushed with color “we were kind of distracted…”

Sitting down he said “I’m not complaining.” Bray’s eyes flashed with amusement and was half tempted to resume where they left off the night before.

“You’re insatiable,” Trebor playfully slapped his shoulder. “What would you like for breakfast?” He asked to change the subject.

“Let’s go out to eat,” Bray suggested. “Then we could stop by that house we both like on our way back.” 

Trebor’s eyes became troubled “are you sure you want to do that?”

“I’m positive,” he took Trebor’s hands in his “We can’t continue to stay at your parents or here. It was nice of your grandparents to lend us their home for our honeymoon but we do need our own place.”

“I didn’t mean that,” he cried “I meant here…to the island. You’re giving up so much for me.”

Lifting Trebor’s hand to his lips he placed a kiss on it. “There’s nothing I want more than to see you happy and being able to pursue your dream of being a doctor. I want you to take the position at the hospital.”

Trebor blinked several times as if he were fighting back tears. “It’s everything I ever wanted but I can’t help but feel I’m forcing you to give up the things you love.”

“I’m not going to lie and say it’s going to be easy but we can make it work. But let’s face it, my career is coming to an end,” there was a note of sadness is his voice.

“You’re not even 30 yet,” Trebor blurted, knowing he had just celebrated his 30th birthday a few days before their wedding and Bray was a year younger than him.

“And that’s old for a professional hockey player,” Bray chuckled. “Of course there have been older players but I want to retire with all my teeth thank you very much.”

“Have you thought about what you’ll do after you retire?” Trebor asked, having not realized how short Bray’s career would be.

“I have made enquiries with the local schools on the island to see if they could use a coach,” smiling he added with the old teasing tone “or maybe I’ll just be a stay at home dad.”

“I wouldn’t mind having you around all the time,” Trebor said. He hated the idea of all the time they would be separated when Bray went back to Boroughsburg to start training for the hockey season.

“You might get tired of me,” Braylin cautioned.

Shaking his head Trebor said “never.” He stood to go inside and change only to have Bray grab his hand and pull him back down.

“You can’t get away from me so easily,” he pressed his lips to Trebors giving him a heated kiss that stoked both their desires.

Once they tore their lips apart Trebor said “if you keep that up we won’t make it for breakfast.”

“Then we’ll just have lunch instead,” his hands already busy removing the obstructing clothing on his husband’s body.

Chapter 36 – Disappointment

Perhaps it was his heightened anxiety but as Trebor entered into the Director’s office his mind was filled with past memories. Memories he’d rather forget. It had been years since he’d been the victim of harassment in the very same room yet the memories seemed to be just beneath the surface. 

Standing, the older man who had taken the position of Director of Medicine held his hand out for Trebor to take. “Thank you for meeting with me. I hope I didn’t interrupt anything important.”

Shaking the man’s hand, Trebor tried to work saliva into his dry mouth. He hated small talk that felt more like prying than anything else. He forced a smile to his lips “nothing my husband can’t handle on his own. Our little monster will have soaked him instead of me during his bath.” He tried to make light of it; although it was one of his favorite times he cherished with his son.

“Ah yes I remember those days,” the older man smiled, taking his seat behind the desk fondly shaking his head. “The reason why I called you today is to discuss your future here at the hospital.”

Nodding Trebor took one of the chairs in front of the man’s desk. “Yes sir,” he murmured, sounding calmer than he felt.

Shuffling through a folder on his desk the Director glanced up, eyes and manner serious. “Your residency ends next month. You’ve done exceedingly well despite…” he paused, his forehead creasing as he groped for the right words.

Trebor looked up sharply “despite my circumstances,” he finished for him. “The hospital has been wonderful working with me and the um difficulties I’ve encountered.”

“Well yes…we do our best to work to provide the best experience possible for our residents. I appreciate that you are able to see that we’ve been exceedingly fair with you.” He steepled his hands in front of him, elbow resting on the smooth surface of the desk. “You are an excellent doctor.”

Trebor dug his nails into the palm of his hand. He knew what the next words would be. He wasn an excellent doctor but they couldn’t use him at the hospital. He could feel the first of many tremors run down his legs as he groped to deal with the implications. What alternatives did he have? When he started his residency he hadn’t planned to stay in the city. 

That all changed the moment he met Braylin. He couldn’t ask Bray to give up his position on the team he loved. Bray loved the city. His teammates. Bray had worked so hard to get where he was. Taking a deep breath as he stood to leave “I understand.”

Relief relaxed the lines in the older man’s face. “I’m sure you’ll find a suitable position…”

Trebor didn’t want to hear the platitudes of well meaning words that meant nothing. His chest felt tight as if a boulder was pressing against him squeezing the breath out of him. It wasn’t lost on him that the Director hadn’t even offered to write him a recommendation. He was on his own. All his hard work and sacrifices had been for nothing.


Stunned he didn’t notice Eli until he almost walked into him as he turned from the closed door of the directors office. “Hey” Eli reached out stopping Trebor with his hands on either shoulder “I was hoping to catch you before you left.” Studying his friend’s face and reading the near panic in Trebor’s eyes he asked “what’s wrong?”

“I … um …” he ran his tongue across his bottom lip. Lifting mournful eyes to meet Eli’s “I don’t know what to do. I have nowhere to go…”

Tugging on his arm, Eli pulled him into a nearby supply room. “What did the Director say to you?” 

“He … he…” Trebor didn’t know how to explain what just happened. His hand groped for the wall behind him as if he needed the support. His chest began to heave as he fought to drag air into his lungs.

Grabbing Trebor by the shoulder’s “look at me,” Eli demanded recognizing the beginnings of a panic attack. “Follow me. In. Out. Just breathe. Don’t say anything. Just breathe.” After several minutes once he felt that Trebor’s breathing was somewhat under control he nodded asking “what did he say?” He could guess but he wanted Trebor to say it.

Crossing his arms in front of him Trebor seemed to be trying to shrink into himself. “He said I was a good doctor despite everything.” A strangled sob escaped him “I don’t have a position once my residency is over.”

Eli’s mouth dropped. Righteous anger on behalf of his friend had him wanting to go bursting into the Director’s office. “That’s ridiculous,” his words sputtered, “you’re the best doctor here, me included.”

A slight smile brightened Trebor’s face “that’s nice of you to say…”

The defeat Eli could hear in Trebor’s voice had his anger rising “you’re not going to just give up are  you?”

“What else can I do?” he cried, turning away, his shoulder’s jerking beneath his shirt. “I know I wasn’t going to be offered a position…yet I hoped.” It would have been so easy. Neitherhe nor Braylin would have to decide whose career was more important. If he had been offered a position here he could continue doing what he loved and Bray could continue to play with the team he loved.

“There are other hospitals…” Eli began to point out but the fear in Trebor’s eyes had him closing his mouth. He knew the other hospitals in the city were in bad neighborhoods and with Trebor’s panic attacks he’d never cope.

“Don’t you think I know that,” Trebor’s voice was loud and cracking with stress. “What good does it do? I’d never be able to work in them…” He ran his arms up and down, shivering a little in the room. He knew his anxiety would never let him work in those hospitals. He’d be forever looking over his shoulder. Jumping at every unexpected noise. In a small voice like he was trying to disappear “the Director didn’t even offer to give me a recommendation.”

“What? That’s not fair,” Eli cried.

Trebor’s eyes blinked several times as his eyes began to sting. All the years of hard work and dedication were slowly circling the drain. “Yeah well,” he shrugged, “there’s nothing I can do. It is what it is.” He had always hated when people said that. Now he understood it. There wasn’t anything that could be done. He just had to accept it.

“We’ll figure something out,” Eli squeezed Trebor’s shoulder, his chin jutting out like he could make it so just by willing it into existence.

“We?” Trebor asked, meeting Eli’s eyes. “But you’re moving.”

“We are,” Eli nodded. “Lona and I aren’t crazy about raising our kids in the city.”

“Oh,” all the air escaped his lungs. He slumped against the wall “I guess you’ll be moving away…” The future seemed even bleaker than ever before without his best friend and favorite cousin. He couldn’t imagine not getting together for play dates with the kids or the occasional double date with the kids with a babysitter.

“You can always come with us,” Eli invited. “You always said you wanted to go back to Sunlit Tides.”

“You’re moving back home,” his homesickness twisted his stomach. “I can’t ask Bray to move. Not after all the work he’s done to get back on the team. It’s his dream. I can’t ask him to give that up.”

Eli raised an eyebrow “are you sure about that? Don’t make decisions for him.”

“I guess…”

Eli could hear the doubt but he persisted “just ask him. See what he says.”


Braylin knew as soon as Trebor came through the door that something was wrong. It wasn’t until he heard the muffled sob that he hopped up from the couch and joined Trebor in the entryway. “Tell me what happened,” he requested, reaching for him gently pulling Trebor into his arms.

Trebor’s bottom lip quivered as one emotion after another raced through him leaving feeling like a limp doll. “I only ever wanted to be a doctor,” his hands moved to cover his face, shoulders shaking as sobs coursed through his body. 

“Who said you couldn’t be a doctor?” Braylin asked gently, running his hands up and down Trebor’s back in a soothing motion he often used when their son woke up in the middle of the night from a bad dream.

“I don’t know what to do,” he gulped for air “my residency is up next month. I thought I’d be offered a position …”

“Oh,” Braylin murmured, unsure what else to say. He could only imagine it’d be like finding he was being traded to another team. “Aren’t there other hospitals?” He wasn’t sure how residencies worked.

Trebor’s body shuddered as he wrestled to reign in his emotions. “Yeah but they’re all in bad neighborhoods…” He sniffled “I don’t think I’d feel safe working at any of them.”

Braylin continued to rub a hand up and down his back “what about going into private practice? Aren’t there smaller clinics you could apply at?”

“I suppose…”

Braylin could hear the reluctance in Trebor’s tone. “You’d still be a doctor. Isn’t that what you want?”

“But not the right kind,” he mumbled, wiping a hand across his eyes.

An almost forgotten memory of a conversation they once had came to mind. Trebor had told him of his dreams “a heart surgeon. You always wanted to go back to Sunlit Tides.”

“I know we can’t…”

“Who said we can’t?”

“Well…what about the team?” Trebor sniffed, craning his neck to look up at Braylin. 

“I could always travel back and forth when training began. It wouldn’t be ideal but we could make it work.” He caressed Trebor’s face between his hands “it’ll require adjustments but we can make it work.”

“Are you sure?” Trebor sniffed, feeling as if someone had handed him a life preserver. “I don’t want to hinder your career.”

Smiling a little as he leant down placing a kiss on Trebor’s forehead. “I wouldn’t suggest it if I wasn’t sure.” He ran his thumb across Trebor’s face, drying the tears. He could see the worry and doubt in Trebor’s eyes as they gazed up at him. “It’s going to be ok. It’ll take some work to make it work but I know we can. I promise it’s going to be alright.”

Chapter 35 – A Little Family Time

“Where ever body go?” Blake asked, rubbing his eyes, yawning wide as he looked around him. 

“They went home,” Braylin explained, lifting his son up into his arms. “Remember before you went to bed you hugged them goodbye?”

“This home. No bye.” Blake’s voice rose “they stay here. Here home.”

“This is our home,” Braylin paused, hugging the little boy in his arms. “They’ll come visit again,” deciding that an explanation wasn’t needed, just the promise that he’d see them again. 

“Oh,” Blake blinked up at him, satisfied for the moment with the answer. “Down. Down,” he demanded, squirming In Bray’s arms.

Smiling Braylin knew the bundle of energy that was his son wouldn’t allow for an extended amount of time for cuddles. “Hold your horses,” he mumbled, setting his son down on the floor and watching him toddle towards his toy box. He knew within seconds the tidy room would look as if a tornado had hit it. Whoever said terrible twos had not met his three year old son. He’d gladly take his two’s over his constant motion and curious nature. 

Shaking his head he turned to the door, stopping long enough to check the baby monitor before leaving to find Trebor. He had a hunch that Trebor would be missing his family and would need a little TLC. Going down the stairs he found Trebor in the living room, “hey babe,” he announced his presence so that he didn’t startle him and spark a full on panic attack which had been known to happen.

Turning at the sound of Bray’s voice, Trebor smiled “is the twirling derby awake?”

“He’s awake and already missing all his extra playmates,” he regretted his word choice as soon as he saw the sadness cloud Trebor’s eyes. “Are you okay? Do you need me to stay home tomorrow?”

Giving his head a little shaking, sniffing “no I’ll be alright. Thanks for offering though.”

“You know I don’t mind,” he pulled Trebor close, burying his nose into Trebor’s soft, messy hair.

“Hey,” he cried “you’re going to mess up my hair,” Trebor complained although he did nothing to prevent it.

“How can you tell?” Bray chuckled at the wounded look Trebor gave him. “I thought you had the night off anyway.”

“I do but I…” he bit his bottom lip as if he were unsure how Braylin would take his next sentence. “The Director of Medicine called wanting me to see him tonight.”

Frowning, Braylin put a finger beneath Trebor’s chin and gently lifted his bowed head. “Is anything wrong?”

“I don’t think so,” it sounded like a question like he wasn’t sure if there was or wasn’t something wrong. “It could be a performance review. I missed the last one because Blake had the flu.”

“I suppose he didn’t give you an idea why he needed to see you,” Bray asked, watching Trebor closely for the slightest signs of stress.

“No,” he pushed away from Braylin to take a couple steps away. “He just asked if I could come in around eight.”

“It must not be anything too urgent then,” Braylin surmised, glancing at his watch. “We still have time to go to the park.”

“Yeah we do,” Trebor grinned, relieved that their plans weren’t completely destroyed by the unexpected meeting. “I have everything ready.”

“I guess that leaves me to get the tornado ready,” he moved towards the stairs refusing to give in to the need to tell Trebor to relax. He knew from experience that would often trigger anxiety which was the opposite of what he wanted to have happen.


Thirty minutes later they were the picture perfect family strolling through the park. “Swing,” Blake pointed, squirming to get down.

“Hold your horses,” Trebor chuckled. “We’re going to eat first.”

“Swings,” Blake cried, flailing his arms and legs as they walked past his favorite thing to do at the park. 

“Ow,” Trebor put a hand up inspecting his nose that felt as if he’d been smacked in the face by a baseball. 

“That’s enough young man,” Braylin set the picnic basket down so that he could take Blake from Trebor’s arms. “You can play after we eat or not at all.”

Blake’s bottom lip came out in a pout but he knew better than to argue when Braylin used the tone most parents acquired when they’ve had enough and their word was final. 

Picking up the picnic basket, Trebor suggested “why don’t you take him to the swings while I get things ready for us to eat.” 

Shaking his head, Braylin followed Trebor to their favorite picnic site. “I think he’ll have plenty of time to play later. He needs to learn to listen to you as well as to me.”

Nodding Trebor let out a small sigh. He was much too soft and Blake had already figured out which of his parents was the easiest one to get what he wanted. “You’re right. I need to be firmer with the little rascal.” He gave his son a fond smile “it’s just so difficult when he gives me those big sad puppy dog eyes.”

“You mean the ones you use on me?” Bray teased leaning down and planting a kiss on Trebor’s cheek. 

“I do not,” he huffed, giving a pretense to being offended as he set the basked down and began to unpack their lunch. Even though the sun was shining brightly there was a definite chill in the air and the leaves were showing the first tinge of red.”Blakes jacket is in that bag. Do you mind putting it on him?”

At the sight of the red jacket Blake began to whine. “No want,” he cried running from Bray.

“Blake come back here,” Trebor called after him. “Don’t run away from us.” His voice cracked as his hands clenched the sandwich he was holding, smashing it between his fingers. 

“Don’t worry,” Bray assured him “he won’t get far.” Braylin hated leaving Trebor alone with the first signs of an anxiety attack coming on but he had no choice. It’d be worse if Blake became lost or someone, god forbid, took him. The part was full of strangers and perverts. He knew Trebor well enough that he’d rather struggle alone than to run that risk.

By the time Braylin caught up with the runaway Blake was happily slung over one of the swings with his feet moving it back and forth. For a moment Bray watched him, admiring his tenacity. “He gets that from Trebor,” he murmured to himself. 

Hearing Bray’s voice Blake looked up with a dazzling smile as bright as any diamond glistening in the sun. “Swinging,” he announced, pleased with himself.

“I can see that,” Braylin shook his head glaring down at the boy. “It’s time to eat.” he gently bent to pick up the little boy knowing he wasn’t going to part from the swing easily.

“No. I swing,” Blake’s little hands grabbed for the chains, refusing to let go.

“I know you want to swing but do you deserve to swing,” he asked, watching the puzzled expression grow on his son’s face.

“Yes,” Blake nodded, “want swing.”

“Deserving and wanting something are two different things.” Braylin said grunting as the boy’s hold on the coveted swing loosened enough for him to pull him loose. “You were told you had to eat first. Then you ran away from us. I don’t think you deserve to swing.”

“But I want…” Blake’s bottom lip quivered “I like swing.”

“Yes I know but you have to learn to listen and be a good boy…”

“I good boy,” he mumbled as large tears rolled down his cheeks.

“Most of the time, do good boys run away when they know they are supposed to stay close to their parents in the park?”

Blake considered his answer before finally shaking his head “no,”

“Only good boys get to swing,” Braylin said. He watched as understanding filtered into Blake’s awareness. 

“I listen now,” he said “I eat then swing.”

“It doesn’t work like that,” Bray let out a little sigh “you need to listen all the time. Now because you didn’t you don’t get to swing.”

“I’m sorry,” Blake said certain that he would get what he wanted.

“I know you are but are you sorry because you made daddy scared or because you don’t get to swing?”

“I fine,” he pointed at his chest. “I not get lost. I big boy.”

“You’re not that big,” Braylin watched as the enormity of his plight sunk in and large tears rolled down his cheeks. 

Trebor took Blake from Bray’s arms as soon as they joined him at the table. He squeezed his son in his arms “don’t ever run away like that again. You could have been hurt.”

“I sorry,” Blake kissed him back.


It took some work but Trebor convinced Braylin to let Blake enjoy a little swing time after lunch. “He did apologize,” he inserted when he felt Bray was about to put his toes in and refuse.

“He did but has he learned his lesson?” He wondered aloud “or will he do it again? It’s not going to hurt him not to be able to play on the swings.”

“I know…”

“Oh no,” Bray shook his head “don’t give me that look. It’s bad enough Blake gives it to me.”

The delighted squeals from his son broke through his thoughts. It was worth it just to hear how happy it made him. Trebor knew he needed to be more strict with him but it was so difficult when he knew how close they had come to not having him. If it weren’t for Wally risking his own life to save both him and their son neither of them would be here to enjoy this day. Sighing a little he wished he had the chance to thank him….

“Boy am I tired,” Braylin announced as he plopped himself down beside Trebor “you might need to carry me home.”

“Oh no I’m not,” he chuckled, shaking his head “the only person I’m carrying home is our son. He’s already half asleep now.” They both looked over to where Blake’s head was lolling to the side, his eyes half shut, held in place by the swing made specifically for toddlers. Standing Trebor chuckled “we better head home before he falls asleep.”

Groaning a little as he followed, Braylin reached Blake first “I’ll take him. That way when we get home you can get ready for your meeting without worrying about him clinging to you if he wakes up.” They both knew that Blake liked to cuddle when he woke up and often refused to let go of whoever was holding him until he was ready to be set down. 

“Oh…” he gasped. He had tried to not think about his pending job performance review all day. 

“Worried?” Bray asked, putting an arm around his shoulders. “You’re going to do just fine.”

“I hope so,” he couldn’t hide the worry and doubt he felt. It hadn’t been easy the last few years with everything that had happened but the hospital had worked with him to help him continue his residency. Leaning into Bray he sighed a little “you’re amazing you know that? Always worrying about me. One day you’re going to get tired of me.”

“Never,” Braylin shook his head as they began to walk home.

“Oh sure, you say that now but everyone has their limit…” his next words were muffled by Braylin’s mouth over his.

Pulling back Bray grinned “you’re not even close,” he squeezed Trebor’s hand that he was holding. “We need each other. I can’t imagine nor do I want to imagine that ever changing.”

“Neither do I,” he leaned in close, planting a kiss on Bray’s cheek.

Chapter 34 – Three Years Later

“I don’t like him,” Trebor said, keeping his voice low so only Braylin would hear him. They were standing to the side as Lonnie introduced Marcy’s father to their parents. 

“Is your overprotective big brother mode kicking in?” Brayling teased giving him a soft kiss on the cheek.

“Probably,” he grunted, keeping his eyes on the older dark haired man as he talked to Verity. Even after all these years Trebor knew who he was. Lonnie had her bedroom walls plastered with his posters. He was once every preteen girl’s dream from his days in a popular boy band to his solo career. “He was in prison…”

Putting an arm around Trebor, pulling him close “for a crime he didn’t commit. He thought he was protecting Lonnie.”

“It didn’t work,” Trebor muttered leaning into Braylin like he wanted to melt into him. Lonnie had told him the story including how she had a one night stand with Barrett that had resulted in Marcy’s conception. How she knew Barrett had denied other women’s claims to have had his child and how cold and ruthless he was in dispatching them. She hadn’t told him she was pregnant. Hadn’t meant for him to find out but he found out from the guy who had framed him. No Barrett wasn’t someone he wanted his sister to be with.

“Hey,” Braylin tilted Trebor’s chin upwards, searching his face. He could see the anxiety building behind his eyes, he could feel the tension in his boy. “Is this just about Barrett or is it something more? Is this too much for you?”

Trebor’s eyes locked with Braylin’s. He wanted to deny that he wasn’t becoming anxious but Braylin knew him too well. “Can we go outside? I just need some air.”

“Sure,” he gave a gentle smile, taking his hand and guiding him to the back door in the kitchen. It had taken them three years to pick up the pieces after Kara had shattered their lives. Still there were times that it felt like it just happened yesterday. 

Closing the door behind them, Braylin pulled Trebor close, just holding him. When he felt some of the tension release from his body Bray asked “want to tell me what you’re thinking? Feeling?”

Sighing Trebor leaned into Braylin as if he needed the reassurance of his touch. “I’m okay really. I just needed some air…”

Brayling raised an eyebrow “you can tell me if you’re not okay.” There had been a time when they had trouble sharing their feelings. They both tried to shield the other from their problems, afraid to overburden the other. “I’m always here for you. No matter what.”

“I know,” Trebor pressed his lips against the skin just beneath Bray’s chin. “I love you.”

Chuckling a little “tell me something I don’t know.”

“I would but you seem to know everything,” he pretended to pout.

Poking a finger at Trebor’s nose, Bray shook his head “not everything.” He let his hands wander down Trebor’s body stopping at the hem of his shirt. His fingers slipped beneath skimming the smooth warm skin and the rippling muscles responding to his touch.

“What don’t you know?” Trebor asked between kisses leading up to Bray’s lips.

“Like where are we going to find some privacy for us to be together with a houseful of family.” His hands were exploring Trebor’s chest and stomach now, pulling his shirt ever higher even as their bodies pressed closer together leaving no doubt they both needed some release.

“We’re alone now,” Trevor’s voice was weak with need as his hands trailed down Bray’s body like he was feeling it for the first time. 

Smirking a little as he smiled down into Trebor’s lustful gaze “anyone could see us? Our neighbors, someone could come outside…” His breath caught in his throat as he felt Trebor’s searching hands as they sought his zipper.

“Let them watch,” Trebor said close to Braylin’s ear as he released him from his jeans.

“Are you sure?” Braylin asked before he lost himself to the moment.

“Positive,” Trebor brushed his lips across Braylin’s, nipping at his bottom lip. “I need you…”

Groaning a little, Braylin leaned Trebor back, guiding him to the ground, kissing him deeply. “If it becomes too much all you have to do is tell me…”

Trebor whimpered with neediness, “just kiss me and take me far away from here.”

“Baby I’ll take you anywhere you want to go,” he promised.


“There you are,” Lonnie exclaimed as soon as they stepped into the kitchen. “What were you doing out there?” Without waiting for a response she turned to the man at her side “I want you to meet Barrett.” She gave the older man adoring smile

Trebro couldn’t deny the fondness he saw reflected back in the man’s eyes as he gazed down into his sister’s eyes. Still he couldn’t help but wonder he saw in a girl more than ten years his junior. Shrugging he forced a smile to his lips “it’s nice to meet you,” he took the offered hand trying not to grimace when the other man took it.

Sensing Trebor’s discomfort Braylin put an arm around his shoulders. You better watch yourself,” he teased “or Trebor and I might have to beat you up if our girl isn’t happy.”

Barrett gave them a woeful smile “don’t worry I aim to keep her happy. I’ve had plenty of time to think about what I want and don’t aim on messing it up this time.”

“I hope so,” Lonnie said glaring at him, “you won’t get another chance.”

Pulling Lonnie close Barrett stared into her eyes a moment. Nodding his head as if he had found all the answers to all the questions that had eluded him till now he said. “I think I’m a lot more worried about what you’ll do to me than what either your brother or parents will do to me if I mess this up. You’ve given me something that I never thought I ever wanted.”

“Which is what exactly?” Trebor asked, interjecting the question as if he knew it would pull them apart.

Lonnie rolled her eyes “here it comes. The whole big brother act.”

“It’s not an act,” he snapped, “ I need to know he’s going to take care of you and Marcy.”

“You don’t have to worry about me,” she huffed, lifting her chin upwards as if daring him to challenge her. “I can take care of myself.”

Looking between the two siblings Bray knew neither one was going to back down. “That’s not what he’s saying,” adding before Trebor could contradict him “we know you’re capable of taking care of yourself besides I’m Barrett has heard this all from your parents.”

“You can say that again,” Barrett enthused, “your mom is a little scary. I wouldn’t want to be on her bad side.”

“See,” Lonnie raised an eyebrow at her brother, her eyes holding a silent challenge.

“Fine,” Trebor rolled his eyes. “I guess I’m very good at the whole big brother intimidation routine anyway.” He started to turn away, his shoulders slumping in defeat. 

“Hey,” Lonnie reached out a hand touching his shoulder “You’re a great big brother. I just don’t need protecting.”

Trebor lifted troubled blue eyes that reminded Braylin of a cloudy sky on a windy day. His lips twitched before he managed a lopsided smile. “Yeah. Alright.” He gave Barrett a firm look “but I reserve the right to kick his butt if he doesn’t treat you well.”

“You’ll have to stand in line,” she giggled wrapping an arm around Barrett “I get firsties.”

Shaking his head Barrett had an uncertain look in his eyes “I don’t know if I should be scared or glad that I belong to a family like this.”

“Be glad,” Braylin advised “I know I am.”

“It’s good advice,” Garrett said, coming into the room leaning heavily on his cane. “I’d take it too if I were you.”

“Dad, should you be up?” Trebor asked, rushing to his side.

Waving his son’s hands away, “I’m fine,” he sounded somewhat irritated “I’m tired of sitting. It feels good to be up on my feet again.” Garrett knew they all worried about him. It had been a rough three years and two surgeries since he was shot. But somehow he had managed to get out of his wheelchair and learned to walk again even if it were for short amounts of time. “Your mother wants to know if she should start dinner.”

“I thought we were going to order in,” Lonnie said.

“It thought we were grilling,” Trebor said “I have the streak already marinating. All we need is for Bray to start the grill.”

“Isn’t that what you were doing outside,” Barrett asked, frowning in concern when Trebor’s face turned a brilliant shade of red.

“Fresh air my ass,” Lonnie giggled “you just couldn’t wait to be alone.”

“Err,” Trebor opened the fridge hoping to hide his face and the cool air was welcome on his flushed skin. “I’ll get the salad ready,” he announced, trying to ignore all the knowing looks and giggles behind his back.

“Well I hope you remember to wash your hands,” Verity deadpanned to the delight and amusement of everyone in the room.

Chapter 33 – What Happened?

Lonnie stepped out of Trebor’s room confident that Marcy would be alright while she searched for someone who could give her some answers. Looking up she found Braylin on his way to see Trebor. She put a hand out, touching his arm “we need to talk.”

Bray’s eyes tried to avoid hers as he made it obvious that talking was the last thing he wanted to do when the single most important person lay just beyond the closed door. “Can it wait?” he demanded, his voice every inch as unfriendly as he meant it to be.

“No,” she shook her head at him. “I know you want to see him but coddling him isn’t going to make any of this better.”

Bray’s nostrils flared as instant irritation bubbled up inside him at her words. “Coddling him? That’s not…” he took a deep breath attempting to pull in his raging emotions. “After what he’s been through don’t you think he deserves it?” How dare she come in here after three years and criticize how they were doing things.

“”Why haven’t you told him?” she demanded pushing for answers, ignoring his comment.

Blinking he took a step backwards “what?” His mind reeling trying to grasp what she was talking about “tell him what?”

“That she’s still out there,” she waved a hand vaguely towards the cityscape just outside the walls of the hospital. “Don’t you think he deserves to know the truth? Can’t you see he’s terrified?”

“Of course he’s terrified,” his eyes slid towards the door as his thought returned to the man inside. Sighing, he turned his attention to the young woman “what makes you think she’s still out there?”

“Trebor said so,” her voice was loud “what’s being done to hunt her down?”

“Lower your voice,” he hissed, grabbing her arm and pulling her in the direction of the waiting room. “Trebor doesn’t need to hear his.”

“Why?” She pulled herself free “don’t you think he can handle the truth? He’s not made of glass.”

“I didn’t say he was,” he kept walking hoping if she wanted answers she’d follow him to the waiting room. “There are reasons why we need to keep this from Trebor.”

Lonnie dithered uncertainly in the hallway before she followed him. Her heart sank inside her. She hated secrets. Been a part of one too many in the last few years. “If this has to do with my brother I won’t agree to keep secrets from him. He needs to know whatever you’re keeping from him.”

“You can’t just come here and assume you know what’s best for anyone.” His voice was raw and angry. He could sense the nurses turning to look at them as they passed in the hall. He took several deep breaths fighting a losing battle with his rising emotions.

Lonnie was staring daggers into the back of Braylin’s back as she followed him into the mostly empty waiting room. “I know what secrets do to people. Secrets eat you from the inside out. I don’t want that for my brother. He’s too good for that.”

Bringing a hand up Braylin squeezed the bridge of his nose. “Ordinarily I’d agree with you. I don’t like keeping things from him. But what worries me most is how he’ll handle it. If he finds out before he’s ready it could shatter him.”

Stunned silence hung between them as shock replaced the anger etched on Lonnie’s face. “Maybe you should tell me what happened. I asked Mom but she didn’t seem to know…”

“Because she doesn’t. We haven’t told her yet,” Braylin led her over to some chairs faraway from everyone else. “Only I and a handful of others know.”

Something in Braylin’s tone had her shaking her head and shivering from the cold. “He didn’t…” her voice faded. It wasn’t possible. Not her brother. He couldn’t hurt a fly. She lifted her eyes, meeting Braylin’s and read the truth they held. Nodding, she sat beside him steeling herself to hear what she realized she didn’t want to know “you better tell me.”


They sat in silence while Bray tried to collect his thoughts. The only sounds were the low murmurs of conversations going on around them. The distant sound of someone crying as someone lost their fight for life. They were all connected in this fragile network between life and death. Glancing out the window he began to say “your dad…he saved my life. He pushed me away.” His mouth snapped shut as tears rolled down his cheek “I should be the one struggling to live. Not your dad.”

Lonnie wanted to reach across and take Bray’s hand. She wanted to tell him it was alright but she couldn’t move. She felt as if she’d been turned to stone, her emotions trapped inside this body of stone. Her thoughts turned inward and she could see a little girl giggling in the arms of her father. It took her a moment to realize that she was the little girl and the strong, firm voice was her father telling her how much he loved her. She could feel the wetness of her own tears as they cascaded down her face unimpeded. Why had she wasted so much time?

“My dad the hero,” she meant it to sound flippant but it fell flat and lifeless. Taking a shivery breath “you better tell me,” she said her words coming out in a soft whisper. She no longer wanted to know. She wanted to remember her brother the way he was. He wasn’t the sort to do what she now believed happened. Not her brother. Not Trebor.

Turning from the window Braylin stared at his hands lying listless in his lap. Maybe if he looked hard enough the answers to life’s biggest questions could be found there. After a moment his eyes lifted, swimming in tears “He killed her. To save me.” He shivered despite the warm sunshine coming through the window “she came running out of the building, gun raised. She was going to kill us. Me.” He doubted he’d ever forget that moment. The way she looked. The wild half crazed gleam in her eyes as she raised the gun in her hand, pointing it at his chest.

Lonnie pressed her fingers over her mouth to keep from crying out. “But…” she swallowed hard. She wanted to protest the reality of his words. Groping for something, anything she said “mom said the undercover cop shot her.”

Nodding Bray ran a shaky hand across his face, squeezing his eyes shut wishing he could wipe the entire scene from his mind where the images seemed to have imprinted on the back of his eyelids replaying every time he closed his eyes. “Wally he…” licking his lips wishing he had something to drink “he followed her after she shot Garrett.” He started picking at his nails “she was quick. Set a trap.” He remembered the way Trebor jumped beside him when guns went off inside the building.

Lonnie had the unreasonable desire to shake him, to hurry him along. She didn’t know why, though, it’s not like she really wanted to know. Not anymore. “Did she kill him?” she asked, urging him to continue. Maybe that was why she hadn’t met this Wally guy yet.

“What?” Braylin asked, jerking his head up, a puzzled look on his face.

“The detective. Did she kill him?” She tried to reign in her growing impatience with his halting story telling. “Is that why Trebor had to defend himself and you?”

“Wally?” he asked, puzzled.


“Wally. The detective,” he said, frowning a little. “That’s his name. Wally.” His thoughts went back to that day. He had his hands practically inside Garrett’s chest as Trebor told him what to do. There had been so much blood. He didn’t know how long it was between the shots inside the building and Kara stumbling towards them, hand pressed to her side, blood dripping onto the pavement. “She was out of her mind. Crazy. You could see it in her eyes. Obsessed.” He shivered at the memory. He’d never seen anyone look like that before. The only way he could describe it was evil. Pure evil.

Lonnie’s brows creased as she tried to fit all the pieces together. “So…Wally died in a shootout with Kara inside the building. Then Kara, knowing she was done for came out to finish you two off.”

Pulling himself from his memories Bray nodded “no…I mean yes…except…” Sighing he hated having to remember the details. The details that he never could fully rid his mind of no matter how hard he tried. In a way he envied Trebor. Overall he hated knowing Trebor did what needed to be done for them both to survive. 

Taking a deep breath he continued “she was carrying a gun. Pointing it right at me. She couldn’t have missed.” He looked outside where everything looked normal. Normal people living normal lives. He wished he was one of them. “She wanted Trebor to suffer. She was going to shoot me and make him watch.” He turned to look at her “I didn’t know he had a gun. Didn’t know that Wally had given him his backup just in case…” 

Reaching for his hand, Lonnie squeezed it. “It’s alright. You don’t have to tell me anymore.”

Nodding he stared at the floor “Wally wasn’t dead. He was hurt. Bleeding bad. I remember how I was watching him. He had his gun raised …” He swallowed the bile that rose “the next thing I know Kara was lying on the ground making these awful gurgling sounds as she drowned in her own blood and Trebor was clutching his arm.”

“Maybe the detective shot her,” Lonnie suggested.

Shaking his head “she was shot from the front…Trebor was in the right place.”

“Do they know that was the kill shot? Maybe she was already mortally wounded before Trebor shot her.” Grasping at straws she continued “have they accounted for all the bullets? Determined which was the kill shot? The autopsy would be able to tell.”

“Maybe,” he mumbled unconvinced but there was hope in his eyes. 

“Until we know for sure Trebor didn’t do it.” She nodded, she liked this better than believing her brother was capable of killing someone.

“Do you really think so?” he asked.

“Yeah,” she smiled. “We won’t know until we know the autopsy results. For now all Trebor needs to know is that she’s dead and can’t hurt him anymore.”

“You’re right,” he agreed. “I hate that this will be in all the papers and media.”

“Let’s tackle one problem at a time,” she suggested with a smile. Standing she said “for now let’s go back and check on them.”