Home at Last

Chapter 1

The sun was just coming over the horizon as Noah Blake turned off the highway.  He reached up into the visor to get his sunglasses as he continued to drive east.  Noah leaned back and pressed down harder on the gas pedal.  Noah had been happy with his life in California, and he was dreading going home.

 Home. Did he even have one now? Noah doubted that he’d ever return to California. He needed to be near his mother now with everything that she was going through. New Jersey sure wasn’t home anymore. His father made that clear five years ago. Noah shrugged. Maybe someday he’d find a home of his own. A home he chose, not a home he ran to in order to escape a home where he was no longer wanted. Noah hated returning to New Jersey. However, circumstances made it necessary.

He tried to banish all the thoughts of his family drama, and, instead, Noah’s mind drifted to all the Facebook messages from Holly Simmons. Out of some quirk of fate, his five-year high school reunion was happening tonight, his first night back in town. Noah wasn’t sure if he’d actually show up. Would Tyler be there? What about Xander? If they were there, would either of them even talk to him? Noah sighed. He’d have to face them eventually.

In a town as small as Green Haven, there would be no avoiding them. Screw it. He may as well go to the reunion and deal with his former friends all at the same time. With that decision made, Noah pulled into the parking lot of the motel, which would be his temporary home. He’d decide how to proceed with his family drama later. Noah got out of his car and walked into the motel office.

————————————————————————————————————

Tyler cursed. Why did he attend this class reunion? The last person that Ty wanted to see was the first person that caught his eye. What the hell was Noah Blake doing back in town? Tyler cursed himself and wiped away the tears that came unbidden to his eyes. He thought he was over Noah. Shouldn’t five years be long enough to heal a broken heart? Tyler wiped his eyes and turned back toward the door. He was about to make his escape when he heard someone yell his name.

“Tyler? Tyler Higgins, is that you? Get over here right now! I can’t believe you actually came!” Tyler knew who that voice belonged to before he turned around. There was no escaping now. He’d been spotted by Holly Simmons, Homecoming Queen, Head Cheerleader, Gossip Monger Extraordinaire. Tyler hung his head, sighed, and walked over to the tables reserved for the class reunion.

“Hey, Holly. Of course, I’m here. I live right down the street. You probably would have sent the football team to my house if I hadn’t shown up.” Tyler laughed.

“Oh, you! I’ve missed your sense of humor! We should hang out more.” Now go ahead and have a seat. I set up seating arrangements. You sit right over there.”

Tyler looked where she was pointing and groaned. Of course, she put him right next to Noah. “This seat is empty. Why don’t I just sit here next to you, Holly?”

“Tyler Higgins! Don’t you go messing up my seating chart already! Once dinner is over, everyone will be moving around. For now, go sit in your seat!”

Tyler raised his hands in mock surrender. “Ok. Ok. I’m going.” He smiled and hugged Holly, but he walked past his assigned chair and on up to the bar instead. Ty leaned against the bar and waved the bartender over. “Give me a double of the strongest thing you have.”

The bartender smirked. “You with the class reunion?” She asked.

“How’d you guess?” Tyler chuckled.

She nodded toward the drink she was pouring for him. “Too many ex-girlfriends in one room?”

Ty rolled his eyes. “Nope. Just one ex-boyfriend.”

“Oh, now I’m interested. The first drink is on the house. Tell me more.”

Tyler heard a voice from behind him. “Ty? Can we talk?”

With a heavy sigh, Ty said to the bartender, “As if on cue, that’s him.” He turned and, for the first time in over five years, looked up into Noah’s chocolatey brown eyes. “No. We most certainly cannot talk, Noah. If I’d known you’d be here, I wouldn’t have even shown up.”

“Fine. Go sit with your friends. I’ll leave.”

Tyler laughed despite himself. “That’s perfect, Noah. Leave. Run. That’s what you’re best at anyway, isn’t it?”

“Ty, I had to get out of that house. I had to get out of this town. I was suffocating here. It was better for everyone.”

“And you had to leave me, too, right? Why are you even here if you hate it so bad? You should have just stayed in California.”

“I… leaving you was the hardest thing that I’ve ever done, and it’s my biggest regret. You know how my dad was, Ty. He would never have accepted me, and it would have been a hundred times worse if he knew about us.”

“So, you just left? No warning? One night we were on a normal date planning for our future, and the next morning I get a goodbye text?”

“I wanted to tell you, but I just couldn’t. It’s…. It’s a long story, Ty. You deserve to know the whole thing, but not here. Maybe we can find the time, and I can tell you.”

“Screw you, Noah. You were a coward. You didn’t just break my heart: you shattered it into a billion pieces. I ran all the way to your house that morning, only to have your mom tell me that you were already gone. Why didn’t you wait for me, Noah? Why didn’t you tell me you were leaving?’

“Ty, I had to get out. I had to. I couldn’t stay one minute longer.”

Tears glistening in his eyes again, Tyler said, “You could have asked me to go with you.”

Noah’s eyes grew wide. “But… your whole family accepted you. Your life was here. You had it all planned out. You would never have left all that.”

“I would have gone with you. You should have known that.” Tyler didn’t wait for a response. He turned and walked back toward the reserved tables.

Noah started to follow after him, but a hand grabbed his arm and stopped him. “Give him a few minutes, Noah.”

Noah turned to see Xander Morris. Xan was both Noah’s and Tyler’s best friend all through school. “Hey, Xan. I should have known you’d be here if Ty was. How have you been?”

“I’ve been good. How about you? How’re things out on the west coast?”

“Eh, I’ve been better. I just moved back to town. I’m not even settled in anywhere yet. Everything is all screwed up, Xan. I didn’t even realize how bad I screwed up with him until just now.”

Xan nodded. “You made a mess of it for sure. You should have talked to him, hell you should have talked to me, too, before you just up and moved three thousand miles away and changed your phone number.”

“My dad cut my phone off as soon as I left. He cut me off from my bank accounts and everything. As soon as he found out that I’m gay, he disowned me.”

“That really sucks, Noah. I’m sorry that happened to you, but it’s actually another reason you should have stayed here. You wouldn’t have been alone. You had us.”

“I know. I’m back now, and I’m going to try and make things right with a lot of people if it’s not already too late.”

“You’re in town for more than just the reunion?”

“Yes. I’m back for good. Let’s go eat. More people than you will want to hear the answer to that question, so I may as well get it over with all at once.”

Noah took his seat next to Tyler, sitting down just as his dinner arrived. Ty barely looked at Noah all throughout the meal. Noah glanced at Tyler several times and wracked his brain, trying to think of a way to get him talking again. Quiet conversations were going on during dinner, but the conversations increased in both number and volume as people finished their meals. Leave it to Holly Simmons to turn the spotlight onto Noah.

“Noah Blake, how did we get so lucky to get you to show up? I didn’t think we’d ever see you again.” Holly said.

“It was fate, I guess. If you’d had the reunion in the summer as most other classes do, I wouldn’t have been here. I’m back in town now, so I saw no reason not to come.”

“We tried to have it in the summer. If we continued to leave it up to Jason, we wouldn’t have had it yet. Rachel and I took over and finally got it scheduled. Anyway, how long are you in town for?” Holly asked.

“Forever. I’m not settled in yet. I got back to town today, and I’m here to stay.”

That caught Tyler’s attention. He was now listening intently.

“Your parents must be overjoyed to have you back just in time for the holidays.” A girl named Alice interjected.

Noah’s expression changed from a smile to a frown in the blink of an eye. Tyler noticed Noah’s fingers nearly drumming holes into the table, a telltale sign of his anxiety. Tyler knew that his ex-boyfriend, his ex-best friend, was doing his best to stave off an anxiety attack. Tyler almost reached out a comforting hand in a reflex action, but he gritted his teeth and held back. He did continue to closely watch Noah’s body language.

“I…” Noah started to talk, then stopped. he sighed and started back up again. “I’m here for my mom. She’s in the hospital again. She might be there for a while.”

Xander and Tyler, from each side of Noah, spoke almost as one. “Is the cancer back? I thought she beat it?”

Noah kinda half smiled as he looked back and forth between his two oldest friends. “Yes, it’s back, and the doctors say it’s worse than before. It doesn’t look good.” Tyler saw Noah’s fingers drumming even faster and literally sat on his own hands to stop himself from comforting the boy who shattered his heart.

Holly spoke again. “That’s so sad, Noah. It must be a comfort to her that you’re here. Also, for your dad to have you to lean on during such a difficult time.”

“I’m not staying with my father,” Noah said, his expression dark.

“Why not?” Holly asked.

Noah looked around the table at all the people listening, all his former friends and classmates. He looked down, then he looked back up again. “My father disowned me five years ago when he found out that I’m gay. I can’t even visit my mom in the hospital if he’s there.”

Tyler sucked in a breath. He knew that it was a massive step for Noah to say that out loud and say it to so many people. And his dad found out! Tyler was extremely curious to hear that story!

Holly nearly jumped out of her seat. “I knew it!” She pointed from Noah to Tyler and back again. “The two of you were a couple back in high school, weren’t you?! I knew it!”

Noah smiled, but Ty could see that his eyes still looked sad. “Yeah, we were, but then I screwed it up.”

Holly looked like she wanted to ask more about that, but she looked at Tyler and changed her mind. She looked back at Noah and asked, “So if you’re not staying at your parent’s house, where are you living?”

“For now, I’m at the motel down on Seaside Drive.”

Tyler couldn’t stop himself this time. He put a comforting hand on Noah’s shoulder. “No. You’re not going to be living by yourself in that dump through Thanksgiving. While your mom is in the hospital, you’re coming home with me.”

Noah turned toward Tyler, his eyes glistening with tears. “Are… are you sure?”

“It doesn’t mean that you’re forgiven. Don’t read anything into it other than the fact that no one deserves to be alone on Thanksgiving, not even you.” Tyler got a wicked glint in his eye and smiled when he said those last three words.

“I can accept that. I don’t have a car yet. I returned the rental that I drove here earlier this afternoon. I took an Uber here. I was gonna go looking for cheap used cars in a day or so. Can you take me back to the motel before we go to your house?”

“Yeah.” Tyler glanced around the table. “Most people have already left. Let’s get outta here and get you settled in.” The two boys said their goodbyes to their classmates that were still there and then made their way out to Ty’s car.

Xander followed the other two out to the car and pulled Tyler aside. “Are you sure that this is a good idea, Ty?”

“No. Not at all, but I’m not letting him spend the holidays alone. Especially not with his mom in the hospital with her cancer back. We both know what he went through last time, Xan. This sounds worse, plus he doesn’t have his dad anymore either. Did you know about that?”

“No. I didn’t know about the thing with his dad or about his mom. I would have told you.”

Tyler glanced into the car and then back at Xander. “I can’t let him go through this alone. I still love him, Xan, even after what he did. I shouldn’t, but I do.”

“Be careful, Ty. I don’t want to see you get hurt even worse than you already have been.” Xander pulled Ty into a hug.

“I’ll call you tomorrow. Even if I don’t need backup or a buffer between Noah and me, maybe we can all hang out. I miss those days. The three of us had a lot of fun.”

“I won’t hold you to it, but I should be available if you call. I don’t have any plans for tomorrow. I love you, Ty. Be careful.”

“I love you, too, Xan. I’ll call you tomorrow. Good night.” Tyler got into his car and looked over at Noah. “Do you need to stop anywhere besides the motel?”

Noah raised one eyebrow and looked out of the window at the receding form of Xander. “Nope. Just the motel.”

————————————————————————————————————

It didn’t take long for Noah to pack everything he owned into a duffel bag and his backpack. “I need to stop at the front desk and make sure they save my room, and I’ll have to pay for next week’s rent,” Noah said as he locked the door.

“No. Turn in your key. You’re not coming back here. You can stay with me until you find something permanent.” Tyler said.

“Are you sure, Ty? I don’t want to impose, and you haven’t even asked your mom yet.”

“Oh, please. My mom always loved you more than she loved my brother or me.” Ty laughed.

“She did not!” Noah laughed. “Is Tommy still living there? He’s eighteen now, right?”

“Yep. Still there and almost nineteen. He’s a freshman in college now. Still, my bratty little brother, though.”

“Cool. If he doesn’t hate me, it’ll be nice to see the little squirt again.”

“I’m the only one who has a right to hate you.” Ty arched an eyebrow. “I’ll make sure everyone else behaves.”

“Can we make one more stop before we go to your house?”

“Sure. Where?”

“The grocery store. I don’t want to show up empty-handed.”

Tyler rolled his eyes. “My mom is used to you eating her out of house and home. She fed you more often than your own mom did for thirteen years. I don’t think she’ll care about a couple of weeks.”

“Things are different now, though. Let me do this.”

“One condition. I know mom wouldn’t want you to bring too much, but we’ll make it a junk food and soda run.”

“Deal. Let’s go.”

————————————————————————————————————

The two boys struggled, both with their arms full of grocery bags, as Tyler unlocked the kitchen door. He nudged the door open with his foot and flicked the light switch on. They tried to be quiet in the darkened house. Still, between the plastic grocery bags and opening and closing cupboard doors, soon enough, the boys were startled by a voice from behind them.

“As I live and breathe, that cannot be Noah Blake standing in my kitchen. I never thought his shadow would darken my doorway ever again.”

The boys spun around and saw Tyler’s mom standing in the kitchen doorway, wearing a bathrobe and slippers. She stood with her hands on her hips and an unreadable expression on her face.

“Mrs. H! It’s been a long time!”

“That it has, Noah. That it has.” Debbie Higgins’ gaze shifted from Noah over to her eldest son, but she didn’t say a word. She just arched one eyebrow.

Tyler gave his mom a shy smile, nearly blushing. “He needs a place to stay, mom. I’ll explain everything to you in the morning. You don’t mind, do you?”

“Of course not. It’s getting late. You finish up in here. Noah, darling, I’m sure you remember where the hall closet is?” She said with a gleam in her eye.

Now it was Noah’s turn to blush. Many memories were attached to that closet, including the first time Mrs. Higgins caught him and Tyler kissing. “Yes, ma’am. I remember.”

“I thought you might. Go get me a set of sheets and a blanket. I’ll pull out the couch. You can sleep there tonight.”

————————————————————————————————————

Tyler woke up to the sound of his bedroom door banging open and his younger brother jumping on his bed. “Tommy, what the hell. What time is it?”

“It’s quarter past eight, but that’s not the question that needs answering. Why is Noah sleeping on our couch?! I didn’t even know he was back in town, and I’d never dream you’d invite him over!”

“Ugh. Tommy, it’s complicated. I… I gotta explain some stuff to mom and dad. I’ll just tell you all at the same time, so I don’t have to say it three times.”

“Are you guys getting back together? He’s not in here with you, so maybe not?” Tommy was shaking his brother so he didn’t fall back to sleep.

“Get off me. Geez. Go to the kitchen. I’ll be out in a few minutes, but, no, we’re not back together.”

“I want answers, bro,” Tommy smirked. “If there are details that you don’t want to tell mom and dad, just make sure you tell me later.” Tommy laughed and left the room.

Tyler rolled his eyes at the receding form of his brother, then he got out of bed and headed to the shower.

————————————————————————————————————

As Tyler walked to the kitchen, he mentally kicked himself for taking so long to get himself ready for the day. He wasn’t going on a date. Ty had zero reasons to make himself look extra good for Noah, but that’s just what he did. Tyler picked out the perfect outfit. He paid extra attention to getting his hair just the way he wanted it. What was wrong with him? Ty spent the last five years hating Noah, and now that he had him here, and he could tell him exactly how he felt, Tyler realized that he only hated Noah so much because he was still head over heels in love with him.

Tyler walked into the kitchen and heard the conversation that he planned on having already taking place. It was just as well. The story was Noah’s to tell anyway. Tyler busied himself getting breakfast while Noah finished telling his story. Ty felt a hand on his shoulder and turned to see his father standing beside him.

“I’m proud of you, son. Not many people would have done what you’ve done, inviting him over here. I have to go to work for a few hours, but I’ll be home early. If you boys go to the hospital and run into any trouble, give me a call.” Ty’s dad gave him a wink. “I’ve never liked Paul Blake, and now that I know how he’s treated his son, I like him even less.”

Ty smiled. “We’ll be ok, dad. Thanks. I love you.”

“I love you, too. See you tonight.”

Tyler grabbed a couple more slices of bacon and sat at the table. He leaned back in his chair and closed his eyes. Tyler let the three voices at the table wash over him but tuned out the conversation. He let the voices of his mom, younger brother, and Noah take him back in time to much happier memories. Ty smiled as his mind drifted back, but that didn’t last long. Whenever he tried to remember the good times with Noah, the memory of the day Noah left pushed its way to the front of his mind. Tyler relived the feeling of waking up to the goodbye text and then running as fast as he could to Noah’s house. He felt his heart break anew at the memory of Noah’s mom telling him that Noah was already gone. Tyler remembered Noah’s dad just standing in the doorway, glaring at him. He felt his eyes sting as the tears formed. Then Tyler felt someone’s hand grip his own.

Ty opened his eyes and saw his mom leaning toward him. She reached over and wiped a tear off his cheek. “You did the right thing bringing him here, son.” She looked over at Noah. “I realize that the two of you have a lot of baggage,” she looked back at Tyler. “But you made the right choice. I know it can’t be easy.”

“Thank you, mom. That means a lot.” Ty turned his head and saw Noah staring at him. “No matter how I feel about you, there’s no way that I could let you stay at that fleabag motel by yourself while your mom is in the hospital.”

“How do you feel about me, Ty? Is there any way I can ever make you understand why I left? Can I ever be forgiven?”

Tyler wiped his eyes. “I honestly don’t know how I feel about you right now, Noah. I’ve spent five years trying to hate you, but I don’t hate you. I don’t know if I am ready to forgive you either. Can we please just go to the hospital and see if we can get you in to see your mom? I’d actually like to see her, too. My dad said to call him if we have any problems getting in.”

Noah sighed. “Yeah, let’s go. I… want to talk to you about everything that happened, Ty. I want to explain, but only when you are ready to listen.”

“We’ll talk, Noah. I promise. Just not right now. Are you ready to go?” Noah nodded, and the two boys grabbed their coats and left the house.

————————————————————————————————————

Tyler led Noah through the hospital up to the third floor Nurse’s Station. Mrs. Blake was in room 327, according to the receptionist in the lobby. Noah was about to walk right to the room, but Tyler stopped him and pulled him over to the desk to talk to the nurses. Ty flashed his most charming smile at the young red-headed nurse at the desk. “Isabella! How is my most favorite nurse in the entire hospital doing today?”

Isabella rolled her eyes and laughed. “I bet you say that to all the nurses, especially the boys. Speaking of which, have you called my brother yet? I told him that I gave you his number!”

Noah suddenly became interested in the conversation as his eyes darted back and forth between Tyler and Isabella.

“You know you’re my favorite, Izzy, and no, I have not called Ozzy yet. I was busy with school, and now I have a few other things going on. I haven’t forgotten. Tell him that I’ll call while I’m home for the holidays as long as other things,” Ty’s eyes darted over to Noah before refocusing on Izzy. “don’t keep me busier than I expect.”

“You won’t be calling if I have anything to say about it,” Noah grumbled louder than he meant to.

“You don’t have anything to say about it. You gave up that right five years ago.” Tyler frowned at Noah and then turned back to Isabella. “Izzy, this is Noah. We are here to visit his mom.”

“Wait, not the Noah you told me about. I thought he moved to California.” Izzy said.

“Yep! The very same Noah. He’s back in town.”

Isabella’s eyes darted back and forth between the two boys. And you’re here together?”

Noah frowned but didn’t say anything. Ty smirked. “Yeah, we’re here together. His mom is in 327. Can you tell me if she has any visitors right now?”

Izzy pointed at Ty. “You have some explaining to do when I get you alone, mister.” She looked down at her computer screen and hit a few buttons. “There aren’t any visitor restrictions, Ty. Even if someone is in there, you guys can go in.”

Ty leaned forward and spoke in a lower tone of voice. “There’s a history of family drama. We’d rather make sure that no one else is visiting.”

“Understood.” Izzy walked down the hall and then returned. “All clear, Ty. Go right in.”

Chapter 2

Noah walked into his mom’s room, followed closely by Tyler. Cindy Blake looked up from the magazine that she had been reading, and her eyes opened wide in surprise. “Noah! I didn’t expect to see you! I didn’t even know that you knew I was in the hospital. Who’s that with you?” She peered around her son and smiled, though her face still looked sad. “Tyler Higgins. I shouldn’t be surprised. I rarely saw my own son without you at his side.”

“Not for the last five years,” Tyler said. “But, anyway, I’m so sorry to hear about the cancer, Mrs. Blake. How are you doing?”

Noah and Tyler sat on opposite sides of Cindy Blake, each holding one of her hands. “I’m doing ok. We’ve been down this road before, Tyler. I know what to expect.”

Noah kept glancing at the door. “Mom? How often does dad come to visit?”

“It depends on his work schedule. At least once or twice a day, though. Why do you ask?”

“I told him that I was coming. He said not to bother. He told me that I wasn’t welcome at the house or here at the hospital.”

Tyler spoke up. “He won’t kick you out of your mom’s room while I’m here.” Then Ty frowned and looked down. “Unless you decide to just run away again.”

“Tyler, I…”

Cindy Blake looked from one boy to the other several times then interrupted her son. “Noah, can you go see if the nurse can get me a fresh pitcher of ice water and maybe some crackers?”

“Sure thing, mom. I’ll be right back.” Noah said as he got up and walked toward the door.

“Take your time, son.”

Tyler started to follow Noah, but Cindy did not let go of his hand. She pulled him back toward the bed. “Sit down, Tyler. We need to talk.”

“What’s up, Mrs. Blake?” Ty asked as he sat back down on the bed.

“Tyler, you have to stop blaming him for leaving. If you want someone to blame, blame me.”

Ty took in a deep breath and slowly let it out. “With all due respect, Mrs. Blake, he left. You didn’t. He didn’t have to leave, at least not all the way to California.”

“I don’t know how much he has told you of what happened back then, but it was bad.”

“I know his dad kicked him out, but he could have come to me. My family would have helped him. Hell, he even could have gone to Xander, but he didn’t. He went to California.”

“There was more to it than just his father kicking him out, but I will let Noah tell you about that. It’s not my place, but what I want to tell you is that after Noah and his dad had their… disagreement, he came to me asking for help. I could have stood up for my son, but I didn’t. Instead, I told him to leave. I told him that it was in everybody’s best interest if he moved as far away as possible and never looked back.”

Tyler scowled. “He still could have come to me.”

“Tyler, my husband is a highly respected police officer in a small town. I convinced my son that his leaving was also in your best interests. I’m sorry. I should have stood up to my husband. I should have protected my son.”

Tyler heard loud voices in the hall, and he listened intently. “Mrs. Blake, do you hear those voices? That’s your husband preventing your son from coming back in here to visit you. If you are truly sorry for what you did five years ago, prove it now. Fight this cancer. Stand up to your husband. Noah needs you in his life, and he needs you healthy. I’ll go out there and take him home for today, but we are coming back tomorrow. Make sure he can come in.”

Cindy Blake cocked her head to the side and stared at Tyler for a moment before she spoke. “You still love my boy, don’t you? I like you, Tyler Higgins. I always have.”

“I never stopped loving him. I don’t think I ever will. I just need to be able to trust him again.” And with that, Ty left the room.

————————————————————————————————————

Tyler stepped out into the hallway and paused a moment to take in the scene in front of him. He had been told about Noah and his father’s tension, but he still didn’t know how bad it was, and this was the first time he was witnessing it with his own eyes. Mr. Blake was standing in the middle of the hall, literally using his body to block Noah from going into the room to see his mother. Paul Blake was pointing and yelling at Noah while Noah practically cowered against the far wall. Ty steeled his nerves and strode across the hall and stood between father and son.

Paul Blake stopped in mid-sentence and sneered at Tyler. “What are you doing here? Get out of my way. I’m having a private conversation with my son.”

“It stopped being a private conversation when you started screaming in the middle of a public place.”

“It’s none of your business, boy. Now run along and take him with you. He’s not getting into that room.”

“I used to have a lot of respect for you, Mr. Blake. Both as a person and as a police officer. I never realized that you were just another mean bully. And by the way, it’s up to your wife who visits her and who doesn’t.”

Paul narrowed his eyes. “Don’t test me. If I don’t want him in there, he won’t get in there.”

“Maybe you should go talk to your wife. For now, I’ll take Noah home, but we will be coming back.”

“That embarrassment of a son has no home.”

“He may not have a home with you, but that doesn’t mean that he doesn’t have a home. Noah is no embarrassment. He is amazing. Noah is kind, and he is compassionate, loving, and so many more things. It’s your loss that you don’t want him in your home. He has a home with me. Now and forever.” Tyler turned his back on Paul Blake, grabbed Noah’s hand, and led him down the hallway and out of the hospital.

As the boys reached Tyler’s car, Ty went to let go of Noah’s hand, but, instead, Noah pulled Ty in for a hug. “Thank you so much, Ty.”

“Anytime, Noah. No one deserves to be treated like that.”

“Did you mean what you said?”

“Every. Single. Word.” Ty grinned.

“I want to kiss you so bad right now, Ty, but I don’t want to mess up anything that we might be rebuilding.” Noah huffed out a laugh.

Tyler’s grin grew wider. “Hold onto that thought. That door isn’t open yet, but it’s not closed and locked either. Now get your cute ass in the car. We have some errands to run for my mom before we go home.”

“You think I have a cute ass?” Noah smirked.

“I’ve always thought that. To be honest, I’d say the last five years have been good to you.” Ty waggled his eyebrows and got into the car.

Noah couldn’t help but smile as he ran around the car and got into the passenger’s seat.

————————————————————————————————————

Noah and Tyler stumbled through the kitchen door, arms laden with shopping bags. Both boys were laughing as they regained their balance and set the bags down on the kitchen countertop. Debbie Higgins arched one eyebrow. “Are you boys ok? I take it that your trip went well?”

The laughter died down, and Tyler shrugged. “It could have gone better, but I think that I made an impression on Mrs. Blake.” Ty winked at his mom.

Noah threw up his hands. “Yeah, and he won’t tell me what they talked about, but, Mrs. H., you should have heard what Ty said to my dad! He was incredible!”

Tyler blushed. “I only spoke the truth.”

“Woah! What’s that smell? Pizza!” Noah yelled. “I almost forgot that you guys always have pizza the night before Thanksgiving!”

“Pizza and movies,” Tyler said. “And if we have a guest, they get to pick the movies. You should remember.” Ty smirked.

“Yes! The best two non-Christmas Christmas movies of all-time! ‘Diehard’ and ‘Gremlins’!”

Tommy walked into the kitchen. “Finally! We haven’t watched those two movies since… well, since the last time you were here, I think.”

“Why not?” Noah asked. “They should be part of the tradition by now.”

“Because you weren’t here to pick them. The movies weren’t part of the tradition. You were.” Tyler said with a frown.

Noah reached over and took Ty’s hand. “I’m here now. Let’s watch the movies.”

Tyler shrugged, but a small smile crept onto his face. “Ok. I suppose we can.”

“Great! Just like the old days.” Tommy cheered and ran into the living room to get the movies started.

As the credits began to roll on ‘Diehard,’ Tyler started to get up off the couch. He felt a weight against his left side and noticed, for the first time, that Noah was pressed right up against him. The night had been so calm and relaxing that Ty hadn’t even realized it happened, even though his own arm was wrapped around his ex-boyfriend’s shoulder. Ty smiled down at the other boy. “Hey. How long ago did this happen?”

Noah grinned. “A while ago… I don’t know how long… it… seemed right. Do you want me to move?”

Ty’s smile faded. “I…”

“You do want me to move. I can see it. Do you want me to leave?” Noah sat up and slid to the other end of the couch.

“Noah, no… I…” Tyler sighed. “I don’t know what I want, but I do know that I don’t want you to leave. I didn’t notice that you were next to me, because you’re right. It felt natural. It felt like that’s where you belong.”

“So… do you… uh… can I…” Noah started to tentatively scoot closer to Tyler.

Tyler extended his hand, and Noah took it, their fingers entwining. “Come with me. I think it’s time for that talk that I’ve been avoiding all day.”

Ty’s mom spoke up. “Do you want us to leave you boys alone in here, Tyler?”

“No, mom. We’ll go to the dining room. You guys stay and enjoy the next movie.”

“We’re not starting ‘Gremlins’ without you guys. That was always Noah’s favorite!” Tommy interjected.

“Thanks, Tommy. You’re the best.” Noah grinned.

“You guys take your time. We’ll be ok in here.” Tyler’s dad said.

“I don’t even know why we’re going into the dining room. It’s not like I’m not going to tell you guys everything anyway.” Tyler said.

Debbie Higgins gave her son ‘the look,’ “Go talk in private. I’m sure we don’t need to hear all the details. You can give us the highlights later, but only if you both want to.” She glanced at Tommy for a second. “We will all respect your privacy if there’s stuff you don’t want to share.”

“I understand, mom.” Ty nodded toward the dining room. “You ready for this, Noah?”

Noah took in a deep breath and let it out slowly. “Yeah. I think I’ll feel a lot better after I tell you everything, and maybe then we can figure out if there can be an us in the future.”

————————————————————————————————————

The boys sat on opposite sides of the dining room table, and Tyler focused his gaze on his ex-boyfriend. “Here’s your one and only chance, Noah. Make me understand why you ripped my heart out without an explanation other than that half-assed goodbye text.”

Noah took another deep breath and began. “You know that I always felt suffocated in this town. Neither of us was truly allowed to be ourselves. Yes, your family knew about us, and Xan knew and like two others at school, but mostly we had to pretend to be best friends. I was proud to have you as a boyfriend. I wanted to shout it from the rooftops.”

“That’s more of a reason to stay, Noah, not a reason to run away.”

“I know. I know. I’m getting to that part. I… I’ve never said all of this out loud. I’ve done my best to bury my feelings for the last five years, Ty.”

“You and me both.” Tyler nearly snarled.

Noah got a sad look on his face and continued. “The night of the graduation party, after I dropped you off at home, I wasn’t ready to go home. I made the stupid decision to go back to the party. By the time I finally went home, I was pretty drunk. Yeah, I know, you would have been pissed at me for drinking and driving, so I didn’t tell you that part either.”

Tyler rolled his eyes. “You’re exactly right, but I don’t think that’s what you wanted to tell me about.”

“Well, I guess I thought I’d go ahead and unload everything while I’m at it.” Noah huffed out a laugh. “But you’re right. That wasn’t the worst thing to happen that night. I walked into my house, and my dad was still up watching tv. He got up when he heard me come into the house. I tried to get to the stairs and go right to bed, but he stopped me. He started yelling at me. He said he could smell the booze, and he said I was lucky I didn’t kill myself or anyone else. Then he gave me a dirty look and said that he hoped that I didn’t get any girls pregnant in my drunken stupor. Before I even realized what I was saying, I told him that I’d never get any girls pregnant because I was gay and in love with the most beautiful boy in the world.”

Tyler’s eyes grew wide. “You actually said that to your dad?” Then Ty blushed and cocked his head to the side. “Did you mean it? Do you really think I’m beautiful?”

“I said it. I meant it then, and I still mean it now. You are still the most beautiful boy… man… in the world.”

“So, what did he do then? I can’t imagine him taking that well.”

Noah looked down and sighed. He stared at the table and drummed his fingers faster and faster. “This is where the story gets difficult.”

Ty reached over and placed his hand over Noah’s. “You are safe here. You can tell me anything. I… I need to hear this, I think. I’ve been angry at you for so long. I need to know what happened. I need to know why you left.”

“He hit me, Ty. After I said what I said, the next thing I knew, I was lying on the floor looking up at my dad as he started kicking the crap out of me. I wasn’t sure if he was going to stop. I thought my dad was going to kill me right then and there.”

Tyler gasped in shock. “The black eye and the bruises. I remember that. You said you got in a fight with a kid from school, but you wouldn’t tell me who because you didn’t want me to go after him. Why didn’t you tell me that it was your dad?”

“He threatened to do it again if I told anyone. He said he’d hurt you, too. Ty, we couldn’t even go to the police. Hell, he is the police! They wouldn’t have believed me over him. So, I decided that I had to leave for my own safety and for yours.”

“Maybe I could have helped.” Tyler motioned toward the living room. “Maybe we could have helped. Worst case scenario, I would have gone with you. Didn’t you know that? I would have gone anywhere to be with you.” Tears started forming at the corners of Tyler’s eyes.

Noah got a pained look on his face. “I didn’t want to mess up your life. You had everything planned out. Never mind a five-year plan. You had a fifty-year plan! How could I ask you to throw that all away?”

Ty leaned in closer to Noah. Tears began to drip out of his eyes and roll down his cheeks. “You idiot! I had a fifty-year plan because of you. Living a life with you was my plan. I could have easily adapted the plan to California or anywhere else. When you left, everything fell apart. My life fell apart. I failed all my classes the first semester at college because I couldn’t concentrate on anything except wondering why you left. I dropped out of school completely and took two years off. I’m only in the middle of my sophomore year now. I loved you more than anything. I fell apart without you.” The tears were flowing faster now, and Tyler started to sob uncontrollably.

Noah leaped to his feet, rushed around the table, and pulled Ty up out of his chair. Noah wrapped his arms around Tyler and pulled him close. “Ty, I am so sorry. I… I thought I was doing the mature thing. I thought I was doing what was best for you. I thought you’d be better off without me.” Noah held Ty’s head tight against his shoulder while his other hand gently caressed the other boy’s back.

Ty melted into the hug and allowed himself to cry for the first time in five years. He lifted his head off Noah’s shoulder and looked into his eyes. “I’ve been angry with you for so long. I didn’t let myself cry over you except for that first day. It was easier to be mad. I’m still mad, but I think I understand now. You should have talked to me. We should have made that decision together just like we made all of our decisions together.”

Noah cupped Ty’s face with both hands and used his thumbs to wipe away the tears. “I am truly sorry, Ty. I know I can never apologize enough, but I want you to know that leaving you was the biggest mistake of my life and my biggest regret.”

“You have to give me time to process everything, Noah. Now that I know what happened and why you did what you did, now I can begin to understand and maybe forgive you.” Tyler’s hands had unconsciously settled on Noah’s hips as he still clung to the other boy. His eyes flicked down at Noah’s full sensuous lips before looking back up into his eyes. “You know that I always have to overthink everything.”

Noah smirked down at Ty. “Do you remember how I used to get you out of your head so you could let your heart take control?”

Ty’s eyes sparkled, and his mouth opened to speak, but before he could utter a word, Noah’s lips met his in what started as a sweet, simple kiss. Ty pulled back for a second, and their eyes met, then Ty’s hands were in Noah’s thick curly hair pulling the taller boy down into a much more passionate kiss. Ty’s lips parted, and their tongues began battling back and forth into each other’s mouths fighting for dominance. Without realizing it, Ty was sitting on the tabletop with his legs wrapped around Noah’s hips in a full-blown make-out session. Then he remembered where they were and jumped up. The two boys separated, and Ty spun around, making sure they were still alone. No one else was in the dining room. Tyler blurted out, “I… I didn’t mean for that to happen!”

Noah looked hurt. “Are you sorry that we kissed? Do you want me to leave?”

“No! Don’t be an idiot! And stop asking if I want you to leave. We still have things to figure out.” Ty wrapped his arms around Noah’s neck. “I’m not sorry that we kissed. I don’t want you to leave. Not now, not ever. Do you understand me? Don’t you dare ever leave me ever again.”

“I don’t deserve you. Not even a little bit.”

“You’re wrong. Don’t be an idiot. You deserve better than me. I should have made you feel comfortable enough to tell me anything. I should have found you after you left. I should never have given up on you… on us.”

“You had no way of knowing any of what I just told you or where I went. None of what happened is your fault. It’s all on me. And, hey, no one has called me an idiot in five years, and now you’ve done it like five times in ten minutes. I’m gonna start to believe it soon.”

“You should believe it. You’re an idiot, but I love you.” Tyler let out a big sigh. “Yeah, that feels right. I love you, Noah. I don’t think that I ever stopped loving you. That’s why I tried so hard to hate you.”

“I never stopped loving you either, Ty.” Noah leaned in, and their lips met in another fierce kiss. They broke apart and turned toward the living room when they heard the sound of someone clearing their throat.

“Get a room, you two!” It was Xander. He was standing there in the doorway, grinning like a fool. “I’ve been waiting all day to hear something. Finally, I decided not to wait for you to text me, Ty. I wanted to make sure you two weren’t murdering each other, so I texted Tommy to see if it was ok to come over. I showed up just in time to see the tongue wrestling show. I guess you’ve made up?”

Tyler blushed. “I… we’re working on it. There’s so much that we didn’t know, Xan.”

Ty’s parents and brother followed Xander into the dining room. Ty’s mom smirked at her eldest son. “Is it safe for us to come in here?”

Tyler blushed a darker shade of red. “Yeah. It’s safe. Sorry about that. Did you guys hear any of his story?”

“Bits and pieces. I always knew that Paul Blake was an arrogant jerk, but I never suspected he was abusive to his own family. You boys be safe when you go to the hospital tomorrow. Maybe all three of you should go together.”

Xander’s eyes grew wide. “Abusive?” He walked over and put a hand on Noah’s shoulder. “Can you please tell me what happened? The two of you have always been brothers to me. I want to understand. I want to help.”

“Have a seat, and I’ll tell you everything. I’m so sorry, Xan. I should have talked to you and Ty about all of this instead of running away, but just know that I’m back to stay. I want to try my best to earn forgiveness from both of you.”

While Noah began retelling his story for Xander, Tyler stepped away and walked over to his mother. “I saw the look, mom. I… I’ll be careful.”

“I know you will, son. I trust you,” She looked right into her oldest son’s eyes. “My opinion, if you want it, is that you are making the right choice. He made a mistake. He was young, and he was going through a lot. Should he have made better choices? Yes. Should he have confided in you and Xander? Yes. But he was eighteen years old and dealing with more than any teenager should have to deal with. He thought he was protecting you. I forgive him, do you?”

Tyler’s eyes were glistening with tears again. He looked from his mother to Noah and back again. “Yes. I think I do. I forgive him. I still love him, mom. I don’t think I ever stopped.” Tyler wiped his eyes and turned to see Noah and Xander standing there staring at him.

“You ok, Ty?” They said almost in unison.

“Yeah. Let’s get back to the tv. We have another movie to watch.”

“Tommy said there’s more pizza, too! I can stay, right?” Xander asked.

Mrs. Higgins shook her head. “Of course, you can stay, Xander. You are always welcome in this house.”

“Well, I’d hope so with my best friend and my,” Xan unconsciously looked at Tommy.

Tommy smirked. “And your what?”

“I… my…” Xander glanced around the room nervously.

Tyler’s eyes darted back and forth between his little brother and his best friend. “Oh! My! God! Please tell me that you two finally got together! It’s about damn time!”

Tommy stared at his brother, mouth agape. “What do you mean by finally? It just happened a couple days ago, and it was only a kiss.”

“Oh, come on! The two of you have been lusting over each other for years.” Ty laughed.

Tommy looked over at Xander and quirked one eyebrow. “Is that true?”

Xander blushed a deep scarlet. “Well… yeah… of course it is. I mean, look at you. You’re gorgeous.”

Now it was Tommy’s turn to blush. “I’m not half as hot as you. If you liked me, why didn’t you say something sooner? I’ve known you my whole life.”

“That was actually part of the problem. I mean, you’re my best friend’s little brother, but that alone wasn’t the entire issue. At first, it was your age. When I first realized that I was attracted to you, you were thirteen, and I was seventeen. The four years felt like a huge deal. Then you were dating Reed, and I was dating Kevin. Then I was in college, and you were in high school, and that didn’t feel right either.” Xander shrugged. “Now, the age difference doesn’t matter, and we’re both single. When you looked at me the way you did the other night, I knew the timing was finally right.” Xander’s smile nearly split his face in two.

“That is the absolute sweetest story I have ever heard. You two are like a Hallmark movie. Well, once you add a little spice in there.” Noah said.

“Are we sure it’s gonna be a Hallmark movie, or is it gonna be a porno?” Tyler laughed.

“Tyler Joseph Higgins, you behave yourself!” Debbie Higgins shouted.

Ty put his hands up defensively. “Go ahead and defend your baby boy. Just remember he’s eighteen, not eight!”

Tommy blushed, but he also huffed out a laugh as he took Xander’s hand and led him into the living room. “I think it’s time to start ‘Gremlins’ if anyone wants to join us!”

“Movie Night at the Higgins house never was dull!” Noah laughed as everyone followed Tommy and Xan into the other room to watch the movie.

After the movie was over, Mr. and Mrs. Higgins went to bed, and Tommy walked Xander out to his car, leaving Ty and Noah alone on the couch. Noah was, again, curled up against Tyler’s side. Noah cocked his head and looked up at Ty. “Mm. I could just stay here all night. I’m too comfy to move.” Noah yawned and laid his head back onto Tyler’s chest.

Ty smirked. “Are you sure there’s nothing I could say to get you to move?”

Noah’s eyes popped open wide. “Well, maybe there’s one or two things that could wake me up. What are you suggesting?”

Tyler sighed, but he smiled. “Nothing. Not tonight. I still need to process everything that’s happened and everything that I’ve found out.” Ty cupped Noah’s face with one hand. “There is one thing that I’m sure of. I love you, Noah Blake. I never stopped loving you. I will love you forever.” Ty leaned in, and their lips met. Noah laid back on the couch and pulled Ty down on top of him as the kiss deepened. Noah wrapped his legs around Ty’s hips and moaned. They started thrusting against each other. They heard the front door close, and they untangled from each other and sat up just as Tommy came into the room.

Tommy gave the other two boys a quizzical look. “Uhm, you guys look a little flushed. I think I’ll just go to my room. Have fun, guys!” Tommy giggled and disappeared up the stairs.

Ty shook his head and smiled at Noah. “I think that’s my cue to go to bed, too.”

Noah got a pouty look on his face. “Does that mean that I have to stay out here?”

“For tonight, yes. If you slept in my bed, we’d end up doing what we almost just did.” Ty huffed out a laugh.

“That’s the perfect reason for me to sleep in your bed, not a reason not to!”

“Give me tonight to wrap my head around all this, Noah. I’m not saying no, I’m just saying not tonight.” Ty got up and helped Noah turn the couch into a bed and then, after one last kiss, went off to his own room to sleep.

Chapter 3

Tyler woke to the sound of his bedroom door opening for the second morning in a row. He covered his face with a pillow and groaned. “Tommy, why are you waking me up again? Ugh!” When he didn’t hear his brother answer him, he uncovered his face and blinked open his eyes. His heart nearly skipped a beat or two when he saw that it wasn’t his brother. Noah stood just inside the bedroom. He was shirtless and wearing only a pair of baggy pajama pants.

“Your mom said that breakfast is almost ready. She sent me in to wake you up.” Noah said.

It only took Ty two seconds to make a decision on what he wanted. He held open his blankets and smirked. “I’m already up. Come join me.”

Noah’s mouth fell open. He gaped at Tyler’s naked body and sprang into action. He pulled the drawstring on his pajama pants and let them fall to the floor. He left the clothing behind and slid into the bed next to Tyler. “You sure about this, Ty?”

Tyler rolled over on top of Noah and looked down into his eyes. “I’m surer of this than I have been of anything in a long time.” He said and leaned in for a kiss. Noah wrapped his legs around Ty’s hips as they thrust their bodies together. Lips, tongues, and hands tried to be everywhere at once. Necks were kissed, ears were nibbled, shoulders were bitten. Noah moaned into Ty’s ear as his hands slid down Tyler’s back, finally cupping his lover’s backside, urging their bodies together. All too soon, their mutual lust erupted in twin explosions that splattered all over Noah’s body from his groin clear up to his chin. Ty collapsed onto Noah and then rolled over to lie next to him.

“That was intense and amazing,” Ty said, nearly out of breath.

That was beyond amazing. Also, it was quite surprising. I thought you needed more time to process things.”

“I was awake most of the night. I processed. When I saw you in the doorway, I decided what I wanted. I’m glad you agreed.”

“Ty, from the minute I saw you at the reunion, I knew I still felt the same way that I always have. I love you more than words could ever express.”

Ty leaned up on one elbow and bent down to kiss Noah again. “I love you, too. I know now that I never stopped.”

Noah smirked. “I want more than sex. I want it all. All the little things. All the big things. But,” Noah huffed out a laugh. “While I’m lying here completely covered in our combined love juice, I have to say that sex with you is better than anyone and everyone else combined. One thing though, next time, we need condoms and lube. I want… no I need… to have you inside me.”

Ty grinned. “I was just about to tell you the exact same thing, so I guess we will need lots of condoms and lube.”

“That works for me!” The boys quickly pulled the sheet up to cover themselves when they heard the sound of the bedroom door opening. They caught a glimpse of Tommy before he backed out of the room and pulled the door shut behind him. Tommy reopened the door, but just slightly.

“Sorry, guys! But I’m so happy for you!” Tommy laughed, then in a louder voice, they heard Tommy yell out. “I told them, mom! They said they’ll be down for breakfast in like ten minutes!”

Ty and Noah heard Ty’s mom yell from downstairs. “Tell them it’s not my fault if breakfast is cold!”

Tommy whispered into the partly open door. “You two better hurry up before mom comes up here herself.” Then the door closed, and Tommy ran back downstairs.

Noah huffed out a laugh. “Super quick shower? Obviously, I need one even if you don’t.”

“Quicker if we shower together,” Ty smirked.

“Not necessarily.” Noah grinned.

“We do need to hurry, so we best both behave.” Ty laughed.

————————————————————————————————————

When Noah and Tyler finally walked into the dining room, thankfully, everyone else was still there and still eating. Debbie raised one eyebrow as she looked at them both. “That ten minutes was closer to twenty.” She focused her gaze on Noah. “And I sent you up there to bring him down twenty minutes before that. I won’t even ask what you two were up to up there!” Then her expression softened. “Just know that I’m happy for both of you. I know from the time you were both five years old that you were meant to be friends forever. I didn’t know yet that it would be more than friends, but friendship is the bedrock of the best marriages anyway.” While she said this, she had reached over and grasped her own husband’s hand without even realizing it.

Ty’s dad interlocked his fingers with his wife’s and held up their hands for the boys to see. “What she said is true. My wife is my best friend, and that is just how it should be.”

Ty smiled broadly. “I hope we can say the same someday when we are old like you guys.” Noah tried to stifle a laugh from behind Tyler.

Debbie rolled her eyes. “Shut up and eat some breakfast.”

————————————————————————————————————

After Mr. and Mrs. Higgins left the breakfast table, Tommy brought his own dishes into the kitchen and then sat back down at the dining room table. He looked over at his brother and Noah and smirked. “You two sure are eating a lot. You guys work up an appetite this morning?”

Both boys blushed, and then Ty said. “We did at that. Why do you ask? Do you need pointers on what to do with your new boyfriend?”

Tommy grinned. “I know what I want to do with and to Xander. I don’t know if we’ve labeled ourselves boyfriends yet, though. I’ll have to pin that down.”

“You know I love you both to pieces, and I support whatever relationship that you have, but It’s also gonna be a little weird for me at first.”

“We’ll figure it out. Nothing should really change for you. He’s over here all the time anyway!” Tommy laughed.

“True. And I have my own stuff to worry about.” Ty said.

“I hope that I am not considered a worry,” Noah said.

Ty blushed and smiled. “You know what I mean. Everything is changing. Changing for the better, but changing all the same. You know it takes me a bit to adjust.”

Noah leaned over and gave Ty a soft, sweet kiss. “Take all the time you need, babe. I’m not going anywhere. I promise.”

Tommy rolled his eyes and chuckled. “If you two keep up like that, I might need a barf bag!”

Tyler shook his head. “Whatever, little bro! Anyway, are we ready to head out to the hospital? Who’s going? Just me and Noah?”

“Xander mentioned wanting to go, and I’m ready anytime,” Noah said.

“If Xan is going, I’ll go, too,” Tommy said.

“We should leave soon to make sure we get back before mom is ready to serve dinner. It is Thanksgiving Day, after all. She’ll kill all of us if we’re late.” Ty said.

Tommy looked up from his phone. “Xan will be here in less than five minutes, and he said that he’ll drive.”

————————————————————————————————————

Xander, Tommy, Noah, and Tyler all walked off the third-floor elevator. Nurse Isabella noticed them and motioned for Ty to come over to the desk. She smiled at him as he approached. “First, I see that you’re still with your ex, and you look happier than I’ve seen you in a long time. Should I tell Ozzy not to expect a call?”

Ty blushed. “I am happy, and I’m not single anymore.” Tyler shrugged. “If Ozzy wanted to hang out sometime, that would still be cool, but it wouldn’t be a date.” Tyler looked thoughtful. “There are some single gay guys that I’m friends with in college. Maybe I’ll throw a New Year’s Eve party and invite them and invite you and Ozzy.”

“Can I bring my plus one?”

“Of course. The more, the merrier!”

Izzy’s expression turned serious. “The more important reason that I waved you guys over here is to tell you that Noah’s dad is in visiting his wife. I know that was a problem yesterday.”

“Thanks, Izzy. We’ll deal with it, and I promise we won’t cause too much of a scene.”

“You better not, or I’ll call your dad before I call security.”

Ty winked at Izzy, and then he turned to Noah. “Did you hear that?”

Noah sighed. “Yeah. Let’s go see what happens.”

Noah turned the corner and stepped into his mother’s room. His father looked up and glared. What are you doing here?”

Noah’s mom reached over and put a hand on her husband’s arm. “Paul, I told you that I want to see him. My son is here to visit me, not you. If you want to give up on your son, that’s your decision, not mine.”

Paul Blake looked furious. He glared down at his wife and then nearly stomped his way toward the door. Noah stepped aside, but his dad stopped right in front of him. “She may want to let you in here, but you are never setting foot in my house ever again. You left some of your trash behind when you ran off to California. It will be in the front yard tomorrow. If you don’t pick it up before Monday, the garbagemen will take it to the dump.”

Noah began to nod his head and was about to speak, but Xander stepped in front of him and looked Mr. Blake right in the eyes. “I used to defend you when the other kids in school complained about mean ole Officer Blake. I told them that you were a super cool guy and a fair cop. I spent a lot of time at your house over the years, and I’m ashamed that I never saw the truth about you. You’re nothing but a mean bully.”

Paul looked at the four boys and sneered. You’re all worthless scum. Get out of my way.” He bumped Xander with his shoulder, and he stormed down the hallway and out of sight.

After they visited with Mrs. Blake, Xander dropped the other three boys off at the Higgins house. Tommy was bummed that Xander couldn’t stay, but their relationship was brand new, and it was Thanksgiving Day. Xan already had dinner plans with his extended family. Head hanging down, Tommy followed his brother and Noah into the house.

————————————————————————————————————

Noah pushed back from the table and rubbed his stomach. “That was fantastic, Mrs. H! I’d forgotten how good a home-cooked Thanksgiving dinner with all the fixings could be! Even the cranberry sauce was mouth-watering.”

“Why, thank you, Noah. It’s refreshing to have someone who appreciates the time I put into cooking. I always did like you.” She winked at him. “Just for that, you get the first choice of desserts before these other animals devour it all. That is if you’re still hungry?”

“Dessert? Of course, I’m still hungry!” Noah cheered.

Pies were brought in, along with a plate of cookies, most of which were gone in the blink of an eye. Tommy helped his mom clear the table of dishes. Noah sighed and looked over at Tyler. “I guess the next thing to worry about is getting my stuff off of my parent’s front lawn.”

“How much stuff did you still have there?”

“Not a lot. If you know someone with a pickup, it would definitely be just one truck full.”

“What are you boys talking about?” Mr. Higgins asked. “Why is your stuff on the front lawn?”

“When my mom made my dad let me visit the hospital, he retaliated by saying that I could never again set foot inside his house. I didn’t leave much behind when I left five years ago, but whatever was still there is now out on the lawn. If I don’t pick it up before Monday, the trash man will.”

Mr. Higgins grumbled under his breath, cursing Paul Blake. “Noah, I can get a truck. We’ll go get your stuff tomorrow.”

“Thanks, Mr. H! You guys are the best. The only thing now is I don’t know where I’ll put it. I… have nowhere to live right now. I guess I’ll rent a storage unit.”

“You’ll do no such thing, Noah Blake.” Debbie Higgins turned to look at her husband, and unspoken words passed between them. “Bring everything here.” She said.

“Wait… what? Why?” Noah asked, confused.

“You’re going to live here as long as that’s something you want. I haven’t even talked this over with Tyler yet, so it’s really up to you boys, but I am extending the invitation. Move in here with us. The guest bedroom has loads of closet space, and we can find room for anything else that you want to bring.”

Noah was speechless, but Tyler wasn’t. He let out a whoop and leaped to his feet to hug his mom. “I have always known that I have the best mom ever, but you’ve topped everything else just now. Thank you for this, mom. I love you.” Ty turned to look at Noah.

Noah’s lips were trembling, and his eyes were wet with tears. “Ty? Do you really want me to live here? Like not a temporary thing, but actually live here? Is it really ok?”

Tyler slowly walked over to Noah and pulled him to his feet. Ty cupped Noah’s face with both hands. “Noah Samuel Blake, yes, I want you to live here. Everything my mom just said, I mean all that times infinity. If anyone told me last week that I would say this to you today, I would have called them crazy. The last couple of days have shown me why every relationship I’ve ever tried to have has failed over the last five years. You own my whole heart. You always have.”

Noah leaned forward and gently kissed Tyler. “Mm. If we weren’t in the middle of the dining room in front of your parents and brother…” He let the sentence go unfinished.

Ty returned the kiss then pulled back. “Well, now you’ve made it too obvious for us to disappear into my bedroom. We’ll have to revisit this discussion later.”

Mrs. Higgins cleared her throat. “Good idea, boys.” Then she chuckled. “And, yes, we know you are both grown adults and not teenagers anymore. We don’t care if you sleep in your own rooms or together, just for Pete’s sake, don’t be as loud as you were this morning!”

Both boys blushed deep scarlet and said almost in unison. “Sorry! We promise to be quieter!” Then Tyler added, “Unless we are home alone.” Ty’s mom rolled her eyes and laughed.

————————————————————————————————————

After the third episode of ‘Lost in Space – Season 1,’ Noah stretched and yawned. “I think it’s time for me to call it a night. Good night, everyone!” He put a hand on Tyler’s knee and squeezed gently as he stood up, then he strolled up the stairs.

“I’m pretty tired, too,” Ty said. “Good night, guys!”

Tommy laughed. “What a coincidence. Have fun, big brother!”

Ty grinned and ran up the stairs. As Ty rounded the corner, he saw Noah leaning against the wall, his red and black flannel shirt already mostly unbuttoned. Noah waggled his eyebrows. “Your place or mine?”

Tyler closed the remaining distance and grabbed the front of Noah’s shirt with both hands pulling him in. Ty pressed his body close to Noah and claimed his mouth in a hot passionate kiss. Ty pushed Noah against the wall. His lips and hands were everywhere at once. Ty kissed along Noah’s jawline and lightly nibbled on his earlobe. At the same time, his hands were busy unbuttoning and unzipping anything that needed unbuttoning or unzipping. Ty’s hands slipped beneath the waistband of Noah’s tight boxer briefs, and Noah moaned into Tyler’s ear. “Oh, God, Ty, we better move this into one of the bedrooms before we end up having sex right here in the hall.”

“My room. It’s closer.” Ty said. They were both stripping off clothes as they stumbled into Ty’s bedroom. By the time Ty closed and locked the door, Noah was naked and pulling Ty down on top of him on the bed. 

Ty stared down at Noah, his eyes filled with that rare combination of love and lust. “I’ve missed you. I’ve missed us. I’ve missed this.”

Noah reached over to the bedside table and then handed the bottle of lube and a condom to Tyler. “So, have I. I hope you don’t plan on getting much sleep tonight.” Noah smirked.

Ty grinned. “We have five years to make up for. Who needs sleep?”

————————————————————————————————————

The next morning was filled with another visit to the hospital, thankfully uneventful, and the boys ran errands for Mrs. Higgins. After a quick lunch, they borrowed a pickup from one of Mr. Higgins’ friends and picked up all of Noah’s belongings from his parent’s front yard. It was mid-afternoon by the time that they collapsed onto the living room couch with their tasks for the day finally complete.

“I still can’t believe that he threw all your stuff all over the yard like that. It wasn’t even stacked.”

Noah shrugged. “I’m not surprised. That chapter of my life is over now. If I have my way, I will never see him or go near that house ever again.”

“What about when your mom gets out of the hospital?”

“We can meet at a restaurant, or she can come here. I’m not taking the chance of dealing with him in that house with no witnesses.”

“I understand completely.” Then Ty looked around and smiled. “Not to change the subject, but we are home alone right now. NO need to be quiet.”

Noah arched one eyebrow. “How long are we alone for?”

Tyler shrugged. “A couple hours. Tommy is at Xander’s house. Dad went in to work, and mom is at the mall for Black Friday sales.”

“Let’s go!” Noah said, and he began pulling off his shirt even as he ran up the stairs. Both boys were already naked within seconds after they reached Tyler’s bedroom. Ty tackled Noah down onto the bed, and they rolled around wrestling for a few minutes. Noah ended up on top of Tyler and had Ty’s hands pinned down over his head. Ty wrapped his legs around Noah’s hips and leaned up and kissed him. Noah’s lips parted, deepening the kiss as he pressed his entire body down on Tyler. Ty was thrusting his hips up and moaning into Noah’s mouth. Noah broke the kiss and looked down at Ty, and smirked. “After last night, I guess it’s my turn.” He waggled his eyebrows and thrust his hips, grinding their groins together.

“Oh hell, yes!” Ty leaned over to the nightstand, grabbed the lube and a condom, and handed them over to Noah.

“I know you always used to prefer our roles reversed… are you sure you want to do this?”

“Yes. I mean, I’m sure more often than not, it will be the other way, but yeah, I want this right now. I need you inside me, Noah. I need that closeness. The bond. Let’s do this.”

————————————————————————————————————

Tyler woke up to the sound of his bedroom door slamming open and his brother jumping on his bed. “Ty! Wake up! It’s Christmas Eve morning!”

“Ugh! I’m awake! How many times have I told you not to come in here without knocking, Tommy? What if Noah and I had been doing stuff that you wouldn’t want to see us doing?” Ty tried to sound mad, but he huffed out a laugh.

“Noah is in the kitchen making breakfast. I knew you two weren’t in here having sex. Geez. Give me a little credit, big bro.”

“Why did you wake me up?”

Tommy sighed. “I need some advice.”

Tyler rolled his eyes. “I think the ship has sailed on giving you the talk. I’m sure Xander has stolen your innocence by now!”

“Oh, please. I lost my v-card to Reed Simmons. It’s not about sex, you perv. I’ve never been in a serious relationship before. I mean… Reed and I were together for over a year, but it wasn’t serious, you know what I mean?”

“Yeah, I get it. So, what’s your question, little bro? How can I help?”

“Well, it’s Christmas Eve, and it’s our one-month anniversary. What should I do?”

“If I know my bestie like I think I know my bestie, he’ll already have something planned. Let me talk to him and find out on the down-low. It would be silly if you both planned something different for the same night.” Ty thought for a second. “Flowers would be good, though.”

“Thanks, Ty! You’re the best big brother a guy could ask for.” Tommy jumped off the bed and headed toward the door.

“Oh, one thing, Tommy,” Ty said.

“Yeah, what is it?”

“Make sure you put out tonight. That’s the best anniversary gift ever!” Tyler snickered. Tommy rolled his eyes and ran out the door laughing.

————————————————————————————————————

The day of Christmas Eve went by relatively quietly for Tyler. Tommy was out with Xander, but Ty and Noah decided to spend a quiet day at home with Tyler’s parents. They’d been binging Christmas movies and snacking on fresh baked cookies and hot buttered popcorn all day long. Now, after dinner, they sat back in front of the tv and put on ‘It’s a Wonderful Life.”

Noah leaned into Ty’s side and looked up at him. “It really is a wonderful life. Well, now it is anyway.”

Ty smiled. “It’s been quite a month.”

“I know, right? I was lost and alone when I moved back here from California. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do or where I would stay or really anything. I’m not even sure why I went to that class reunion. Boredom, I guess. I just needed to get out of that dirty motel room.” Noah huffed out a laugh.

“You never went back, except to pick up your things,” Ty smirked.

“I thought you hated me. You wouldn’t even let me talk to you at first. I was in shock when you brought me here that night.”

“The best decision I ever made. Plus, even if I did hate you, which I never did, I could not let you stay in that motel. When you came out to the entire class and then told everyone about your mom. I reacted on impulse.”

“Now, my mom is out of the hospital, and she left my dad. Her life is getting better right along with mine.”

“Mine is, too.” Ty leaned over and gave Noah a kiss. “And with that in mind, we have a tradition in this house. We each get to open one present on Christmas Eve.” Ty looked over at his mom. “Do I have to wait for Tommy to get home?”

“No. He said that he’ll be home late. You go on ahead.”

Ty grinned and walked over to the tree. He reached into the branches and pulled out a small package wrapped in red, white, and gold paper. Ty motioned for Noah to join him by the tree. Noah walked over and extended his hand to receive the gift.

Tyler reached out with his free hand and grabbed the front of Noah’s shirt. He pulled the other boy in and planted a kiss firmly on his lips. When he broke the kiss, Noah smiled. “What was that for?”

Ty grinned. “Do I need a reason to kiss the man I love?”

“Well, no, but…”

Tyler cut him short and pointed up. “Ah,” Noah said. “Mistletoe. That wasn’t there earlier. When did you put that up?”

“While you were in the kitchen helping mom with the last batch of popcorn.”

“Sneaky devil.” Noah grinned. “Can I have my present now?” Ty handed the gift over to Noah, who gleefully ripped the wrapping paper off of it. He opened the box and held up a single key. Noah looked puzzled. “What’s this go to?” He asked.

“Do you remember what we were doing last weekend?”

Noah thought for a second. “You don’t mean the condos on the beach, do you?”

“The very same. The one that you said you liked the best is ours as long as you still want to move in with me. I have until the twenty-ninth to change my mind, or I can make one phone call, and it’s officially ours. What do you think?”

“What do I think? I think that you’re freaking awesome! Yes! Of course, yes. There’s nothing I want more than to live with you.”

“You’ve been living with me for a month.” Ty huffed out a laugh.

Noah smirked. “No offense to your parents and Tommy, but this will be different, and you know it. This will be a place that is just ours.”

“That’s the plan. It’s also rent to own. If we like it well enough, it can be ours forever. It won’t just be an apartment. We can make it into our home.”

Noah took one of Ty’s hands and placed it over his heart, then he put his own hand over Tyler’s heart. “I love that you want to build a home for us, but I want you to know something. Ever since the first day I saw you way back when we were five years old, somehow even back then, I knew. My parent’s house was no longer my home. California was never my home. You are my home, Tyler. Wherever you are is where I want to be. Here. An apartment. Our new place. As long as we’re there together, it is home.”

Tears were flowing down both boys’ cheeks. Ty leaned in and gave Noah another kiss. “I love you with all my heart, Noah. I always have and I always will.”

Noah blushed and smiled. “Can I give you my gift now?”

Ty grinned and wiped the tears off his face. “You better!”

“Well, I was super nervous about this, but with the condo and the proclamations of love, it kinda boosts my confidence in your response.”

“Aw. Babe, what is it? Why would you be nervous?”

Noah smiled and pulled a small box out of his pocket, then he dropped to one knee. He opened the box and held it out toward Tyler. “Tyler Joseph Higgins, I have loved you nearly my entire life, and I will love you forever. I can’t imagine a life without you. I nearly lost you once. I never want to take that chance again. Will you marry me?”

Ty’s tears were flowing freely now, and he heard his mom squealing with glee in the background. Ty pulled Noah to his feet and kissed him. Ty’s hands ran through Noah’s hair as the kiss became passionate. Then Ty broke the kiss. He looked behind him at his parents. “Ooops. Sorry! I got carried away.” Then he looked back at Noah. “Yes! If you couldn’t figure it out, a billion times yes! Of course, I’ll marry you!”

Noah scooped Tyler up into his arms. He looked over at Ty’s parents. “Good night, Mr. and Mrs. H!” Then he carried his fiancé up the stairs and into his bedroom. He set Tyler down on the bed, and as he turned to close the door, he said, “Just think, a month ago I was almost homeless, and now I am finally home at last.”

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