Aaron's Sorrow and Joy - The Legacy Continues by Simply written


Aaron’s best friend in junior high, Teddy, became more than just a friend by the time they graduated one and two in their high school class. They went off to college together where their love continued to grow.  As they completed their undergraduate degree, Teddy was accepted into the Medical School to become a doctor while Justin planned to go to the School of Veterinary Medicine. They had already decided they would graduate in their own fields and then, together, would go explore the world while helping those in need.

But sometimes best laid plans don’t come to fruition. 

Aaron finds himself alone with a newly earned Doctor of Veterinary Medicine and, although it couldn’t be with Teddy, Aaron heads to Africa to help patience and, hopefully, find himself again.


(I apologize if there are a lot of mistakes in this story.  With my beta unavailable, I used AI for corrections.)

Categories: QAF US Characters: Brian Kinney, Justin Taylor
Tags: None
Genres: Alternate Canon
Pairings: Brian/Justin
Challenges: None
Series: None
Chapters: 10 Completed: No Word count: 41806 Read: 44975 Published: Apr 28, 2024 Updated: Apr 28, 2024

1. Chapter 1 by Simply written

2. Chapter 2 by Simply written

3. Chapter 3 by Simply written

4. Chapter 4 by Simply written

5. Chapter 5 by Simply written

6. Chapter 6 by Simply written

7. Chapter 7 by Simply written

8. Chapter 8 by Simply written

9. Chapter 9 by Simply written

10. Chapter 10 by Simply written

Chapter 1 by Simply written

Chapter 1

Aaron stepped out of his apartment and looked at his surroundings. He had arrived about 24 hours ago and spent most of the time sleeping since then. Now he stood on a small porch that looked over a lovely garden and a small pond.  He saw some birds swimming in the lake but from this distance he wasn’t sure what they were.  He had tried to brush up on the local animals once he knew where he was going.

He heard a door  close softly and then he heard footsteps approaching. He turned to see a petite blond woman about his age carrying two mugs. “Hello, neighbor. I thought you might need a cup of coffee.  I hope a little cream and sugar works for you.” Aaron smiled back and accepted the outstretched mug of steaming liquid. She continued, “I’m Jessa.  I arrived two weeks ago. And I am sure by now you know I’m from…”

“New Zealand.” He extended his empty hand and said, “I’m Aaron Taylor-Kinney. I know there isn’t anyone here from Australia right now so I thought I would take a stab. Nice to meet you, Jessa. You are a psychologist right?”

Jessa kept his hand in hers. “You reviewed your co-workers carefully.”

“I had plenty of time on the flights.”

“What part of the states do you come from Dr. Taylor-Kinney?”

“Well, when I was young we moved quite frequently but most of my childhood we lived on a ranch near Denver, Colorado.” Aaron held up his cup and took a sip. This is really good coffee.”

“Thanks. Africa has some great beans. So tell me,” She took a sip of her own. “Aaron, do you have any plans for the day? I am heading to the market to pick up some supplies. I thought we could pick up some breakfast and stroll through the shops.  We can pick up any supplies that you might need.”

“You don’t have to try to entertain me.  For the last three years I have been a recluse except for school. I…”

“I am sure all you have had time for was studying. School will do that to you but that is over now. Come on, Aaron, live a little. You have a new country to explore.” Jessa grinned at him.

“Do we have time for one more of these?” He held up the empty mug.

“Let’s pick up the next one with breakfast. The coffee is amazing in the bazaar.” She took the empty cup and smiled.  “Give me 10 minutes to pull my hair back and brush my teeth.  If you have a tote, take it along.  If you don’t, that will be your first purchase.”

A half hour later Aaron was absorbing all the sounds and smells of the bazaar. “What is this stuff? It is really good!” He took a bite of one of the rolls Jessa told him to try.

“Let me know when you figure it out.  All I know is these are the best I have tried so far and what about this coffee?”

“This will definitely keep me going.” He took another swallow and then said, “Did I tell you I have a sister named Jessi.”

“Older or younger?” They finished their breakfast and started roaming again. 

“Jessi is less than a year younger than me.  She is traveling the world and hopes to spend Christmas here.”

“Any more Taylor-Kinney siblings?”

“I have an older brother, Gus and he is married to Fi. They fell in love when they were five and they’ve been married about 10 years.”

“Sounds like a busy family.  Especially with two kids in less than a year.  Your mom..”

“I don’t have a mom. My dads have been together for almost 30 years. Gus is a Kinney by blood and I’m a Taylor by blood and Jessi is a Taylor-Kinney by heart. That’s what we said when we were little.  Oh, look at that?” Aaron pointed to a stall of blankets and pillows to add some personality to his space. “How do I know what will look good when I move to the permanent location in a couple weeks?”

“So far I have noticed that the homes and furnishings are pretty neutral.  It is this kind of thing that brightens up the place.” Jessa picked up a stunning woven blanket.

Aaron reached out and ran a hand over the  rows of color.  “They remind me of the colors of a sunset. Teddy would love…”

“Who is Teddy and where did you get your sense of color?” She asked as Aaron picked up a couple pillows that worked perfectly with the blanket.

“My dad is an artist so we always had color around us.” He had been upset with himself for mentioning Teddy already.  “Help me pay for this. I don’t see a price.” 

The remainder of the shopping trip, Jessa taught Aaron the art of haggling as they moved from textiles to food and then moved toward the food stalls for groceries they could use the next few days.

“Oh, one last stop,” Jessa said, as she made a beeline to a shop at the corner.  “It wouldn’t be a complete Tanzanian experience without some of this.” She picked up two different bottles of liquor. “Here, take these.  I will grab some sodas to go with this.  You don’t want to drink those straight.”

By the time they returned to the apartment, Aaron was dragging. “I don’t know what just hit me but, I’m dragging.”

“It’s the heat mixed with the jet lag that just sneaks up on you. Go take a nap. You are probably tired of my chatter by now, too.”

Aaron smiled, “Your energy reminds me of Jessi. I learned to tune her out years ago.” He kissed Jessa’s cheek.  “Thanks for today.  It was great.”

“I don’t want to get on your nerves but how about I make us some dinner around 7:00 and then you can meet a few of the other people living here right now.”

“I’m not sure. I…”

“Trust me, by this evening you will be ready to go again.”

“Ok, you’re right.  It will be good to meet some more of the … what does everyone call each other here?”

“I just call them the gang or by name, if I know them. Don’t worry. I can tell you have people skills, you’re just a little reserved at first.”

“You really are a psychologist,” Aaron said as he opened his door. “See you about 7:00.” He stepped in but stuck his head back out, “Thanks, Jessa.”

Aaron stepped into the room and leaned against the door, letting the cool, dark room surround him. After a moment he stepped forward and put his throw and pillows and then he stretched out on the sofa and as he drifted off to sleep, the tears began to spill from his eyes. “Teddy, I miss you,” he said softly.  “We were supposed to do this together.” As the silent tears rolled onto his new pillow, Aaron drifted off.

“TEDDY!” Aaron called out in his sleep waking himself up. Softly he said, “Don’t leave.” He had been dreaming about an afternoon in the valley near Spirit Pass with the bison feeding nearby. They were laying on a blanket with fingers entwined, talking about their future adventures when Teddy got up and started walking into the grazing herd.  He hadn’t even looked back when Aaron had called out to him.

Aaron was now on his feet and looking around his new lodgings. For a minute he had to remember where he was and why he was there alone. When he remembered his morning with Jessa he looked at the clock.  He had slept over 2 hours. He had a little over an hour before going next door and his first stop was the shower. He needed to shake this feeling.  Three years ago he had dreams like that nearly nightly. Now it seemed to only happen if he was very tired or if he was sick. When it happened every night he had wished they would stop so he could get a good night's sleep but then he also worried he would never dream of Teddy again and that was even worse.  He couldn’t imagine not being able to talk to him, even if it was only in a dream.

As he woke up under the spray of water, he soon found out there was a limit to the hot water. It soon got chilly so he made sure the soap was all rinsed off and he toweled off.  The water had washed away the haze he had been in and as he got dressed he started thinking about the people that would be at the get together later tonight.  He hoped there weren't too many people.  Growing up in his family he knew how to manage a large gathering but Jessa nailed it, he was by nature quieter than the rest of his family although his dad, Justin, had times when he preferred to be alone, especially when he was working on a big project. 

Aaron lifted his hand to knock on Jessa’s door when he heard her call, “It’s open.” 

He walked in and exotic scents filled the air. “Wow, something smells really good.”

“It is the only local dish I have learned to cook, although I did put an NZ twist.” She smiled at him and added, “By the way, don’t follow my example.  Keep your door locked. I just opened it a couple minutes ago.  I knew I would have my hands in this water so I wanted you to be able to get in.” With that she pulled her hands out of the water and dried them off. “I heard your shower running.  I’m sure you found out the hot water supply is not great.  We all share the water heater and sometimes it runs low.”

Aaron walked over to where she stood, “I was about done when it started to cool off.  Is there anything I can do for you?”

“No, I’m just going to fill the plates here and we can either sit out on the porch or eat in here. Was there a breeze out there?”

“It actually feels really nice out. The lake helps cool it down, doesn’t it?”

“Then we’ll go outside.  I made plenty of food in case someone comes early and hasn’t stopped to eat, there will be something for them.”

“Jessa, you’re a really good person.”

“Oh, I have a dark side just like everyone else. But like you, mine doesn’t come to the surface often.”

If only she knew, he thought as he took a plate of food from her and took the bottle of booze she handed it to him.  She managed to carry her plate as well as two glasses. “I already have some soda out there.”

Once they sat down, she mixed them both a drink. Aaron took a sip and shivered, “What is this stuff? It reminds me a little of vodka but I don’t think it is.”

“Well, it is Tanzania’s version. It is about 160 proof so you don’t want to drink it straight.”

“You’re a good cook.  Next time I’ll cook for you.”

“You’re on.” As Jessa spoke another guest arrived. Jessa introduced them and soon he was also holding a plate.  

By 11:30 p.m., the party was breaking up. Many of the gang had things to do the next day. Aaron helped Jessa straighten up and then joined her for one more drink.  It wasn’t until he started drinking it that he realized how drunk he was.

Jessa was in the same state. She joined him at the rail of the porch. They leaned against it and looked out over the water. “Aaron,” she dropped an arm around his shoulders and said, “I don’t know who Teddy is but you brought him up earlier today and I heard you call out his name before… anyway, if you ever want to talk about him, I’m here.”

“I need to go to bed,” he emptied his glass and handed it to her. Without another word, he went into his place, locked the door, and then pulled all the blinds.

Jessa watched him and heard the lock turn. She then finished her own drink and said to herself, “You may have just over stepped. What kind of psychologist am I?”

The remainder of the week Aaron was kept busy in training for the post he had been assigned to. They taught him about the village he would live in and some of the common traditions and beliefs. He was also briefed on the most common animals he could expect. 

Jessa had apologized to him for being too nosey. She assured him she had drank too much so in the evening they shared dinner. but he always made an excuse to return to his apartment after they had eaten. She was glad they at least mended their friendship.  She hoped she could regain his trust. She had really enjoyed getting to know him. His family sounded so caring and interesting. She hoped to hear more sometime. For some reason she was sure Aaron Taylor-Kinney had a story to tell.

Aaron was laying in bed reading over some of the village traditions when his phone rang. He knew who it was immediately.  “Hey, Jessi, I was hoping you’d call tonight.”

“Well, bro, you left me three messages.  Are you still in the city or have you moved on to the village?”

“I leave tomorrow.  That’s why I wanted you to call tonight.  The village has patchy cell service but I’m told the wifi is usually working.  We may have to set up times to talk.”

“That shouldn’t be a problem.  I actually may be going off grid for a while myself but if I do, I’ll make sure you know what I’m up to and the approximate duration.”

“Jess, where are you? Are you still in Japan?”

“No, but I’m not far from there.  I’m in Manila right now but I will be traveling to some of the small islands.”

“And you will have wifi?”

“I have gotten satellite wifi with my new job.”

“New JOB? I thought you were just exploring the world.”

“One of my college friends showed a friend some of my pictures and a travel magazine offered me a job. They are the ones sending me out.  I’m so excited!”

“Ah, Jess, I’m happy for you.”

“I know! Now we are both living our dream,” she said excitedly and when Aaron didn’t respond she asked, “Aaron, are you alright? I know you’re not.”

“Jess, Teddy was supposed to be here with me. I wasn’t supposed to do this alone! I should have stayed at the ranch and taken care of all our animals.”

“Oh, Aaron, I wish I could reach out and hug you right now. Once you get to your village and have a place you can call your own, you’ll find your way, bro.  You are one of the strongest people I know. The way you supported Teddy…”

“If you hadn’t been there to support me, I would have never even finished my degree.”

“That’s not true, but we have always been there for each other and we always will be.”

“Jessi, be careful out there and keep in touch when you can. I love you, little sis.” He wanted to say more about her safety but he knew Jessi would tell him to stop worrying.

“You will always be my best girl!”

When the line went dead, Aaron took a deep breath. Jess could almost always make him feel better. She had always been his cheerleader. She was probably right. When he had his own space again and he could make it his own. With Jessi’s energy still boosting his mood he fell into a restful sleep.

The next day was a whirlwind of activity. After saying goodbye to Jessa, the program director took Aaron to his village. Upon arrival, they emptied his belongings into his half of a duplex before being introduced to the leader of the village. Before receiving a tour of the local area, the director had to return to the city. “Aaron, I was hoping Dr. Remington would be here before I had to leave but he is out setting a leg. He will have to introduce himself. 

Aaron found the village and surrounding area fascinating. He couldn’t get over the local homes and people.  One minute he felt like a group of homes were very primitive but then he would see bovine and caprine being herded by four wheelers but they were not the same kind of cows and goats he had worked on in the states. The village leader was a very good guide and by the time they got back to town, Aaron had met several people and he felt much more comfortable about his new home.

The sun was beginning to set when Aaron had finished  unpacking his clothes.  While arranging items in his bathroom, he heard the shower start in the other half of the duplex. It took him a moment to remember the doctor’s name. He was fairly sure the name was Remington, however, he wasn’t sure if that was his first name or last name. He’d find out soon enough.  He hoped they had something in common.  If nothing else they could talk medicine and if they weren’t best friends that was fine with him. In fact, that might be the best. Friendly colleagues was his goal. 

As he moved to the kitchen, Aaron realized the shower had stopped sometime. He opened the fridge and looked over the food he had.  There wasn’t one frozen meal, not even a pizza. He enjoyed cooking but tonight he just wasn’t in the mood. He pulled out some cheese and bread. He started digging through a drawer to find something that would slice the cheese and loaf when there was a knock on the door.

“Coming,” he called as he walked to the door. He unlocked it and opened it without asking who it was. In front of him stood a man slightly over six foot tall with mocha skin and golden eyes. 

“You really should check who is at the door before opening it.” His tone was brusk.

Aaron shut the door in Remmie’s face, locked the door, and then said, “Who is it?” in a sing song voice. 

“Open the door.” the visitor said.

“I was told to never open the door to a stranger.  Who is it?” Aaron heard an odd noise coming from the other side so he unlocked it and slowly opened the door and looked out. The gentleman at the door was now leaning against the porch pole with a grin on his face.

“I deserved that. You are Dr. Aaron Taylor-Kinney, son of one of the world’s most outstanding artists of the 21st century. Not that I’m a big fan of his amazing work.” Now he stepped forward with a small bow. “I am Julian Remington. My friends call me Remmie. Will you forgive my rudeness?  I had a very long day and I am guessing you have too.”

Aaron extended his hand and Remmie shook it. “Nice to meet you, Remmie.” For a moment their eyes locked and, if Aaron wasn’t mistaken, Remmie noticed it, too. “Um, did you want to borrow a cup of water buffalo milk?”

Remmie grinned, “Actually, I was going to ask if you wanted to join me for dinner.”

“Oh, I… no, thanks. You just said you were tired after a long day.”

“What I didn’t say was that my patient's wife sent home enough food for several people. Come join me and we can get to know each other a little better.” 

Aaron almost said no but then he got a whiff of the aroma coming from his office and he said, “Ok, thanks.  I was going to settle for some cheese and bread.”

“If you don’t mind grabbing the bread, I am getting more tomorrow but am out right now.”

“So what are we eating?” Aaron asked as Remmie put a large scoop of some kind of stew onto his plate.

“I am not sure what the official name of it is. I just call it goat stew whenever I get something like this.  I hope you aren’t one of those people that won’t eat goat just because you have never had it before.”

“Not at all.  I have had it before and I grew up on bison and venison so I am used to a variety of proteins.”

“Oh, that’s right.  You’re from a ranch in Colorado, right?”

“Have you been stalking me or my father?”

“I did know he lived there but I read your bio when I found out you would be joining me. I hope that doesn’t make me seem like a stalker.”

“No more than me knowing you grew up outside of London with your parents, who are both doctors.  Your dad specializes in neurology while your mom specializes in childhood cancer. You have one sister who is a couple years older than you. She married your best friend.”

Remmie grinned back at him, “Good lord, why did they go into that much detail?”

“Honestly, my dad sent me a report that his security team put together for him.”

They both reached for the bottle of wine at the same time. Remmie’s hand rested on top of his Their eyes met and they were silent for a split second. Then Aaron slipped his hand out and Remmie filled both glasses. “Did I pass the test? If I hadn't, would you have stayed home?”

Aaron met his eyes, trying to decide if he was serious or just joking. “It’s been a while since I needed my dad’s permission.” His voice was a little clipped.

“Please don’t take offense until you get to know me. I really don’t mean to upset you. Most people like me once they really get to know me. I really hope we can become chums.”

For a moment Aaron got lost in Remmie’s gold flecked eyes. He smiled at him and said, “I suppose I must.  I have a feeling we will need each other from time to time.” He took another swallow of wine and added, “Thanks for sharing this with me.”

“The last vet and I shared dinner at least four nights a week.  It all depended on how busy we were. You don’t have to do this but we found out that whoever was home first just started dinner.  If I had a busy week I would eat over at her place and if she was the one that got home late I made the meal. We just balanced out the chore of cooking.”

“That makes sense to me.  So the last vet was a female?”

“She was.”

“Why did she leave?  It sounds like she was supposed to be here for a few months more.”

“Large animals weren’t for her. I think she pictured cows in a barn, not water buffalo in the desert. She was a lot of fun but country life was not for her. She needed more excitement. I just didn’t do it for her.”

“Were you two an item?”

“Not like that. We had a couple drunken nights where we shared a bed but..”

“But?” Aaron had gotten the feeling Remmie was gay but it wouldn’t be the first time he was wrong.

“She had come here to get away from a broken heart.  Besides preferring small animals, she realized running away isn’t the way to heal a heart.”

Aaron drank the last of his wine and he stood, “I should go. I want to review some of the species I will be working on.”

Remmie had felt something shift in the room. “No worries. It will only take me a couple minutes to put this stuff away.”

“Thanks again.”

Remmie stood and looked into Aaron’s eyes, “I…” He stopped for a moment, “I hope you have a good sleep.  If you need anything you can always knock on our adjoining wall. Trust me, you are safe here but after dark, we do hear some interesting sounds.”

“I hadn’t thought about that. Remmie, I’m sorry I’m such poor company. I think it is all the changes in the last couple weeks. I’ll make dinner tomorrow unless you get home first.”

“Sounds brilliant.” Remmie stepped out and waited to hear the lock of Aaron’s door turn before going inside himself and locked his own door.


As he got ready for bed he thought about Aaron. He was so bright and so attractive but he had walls but, hopefully, he will be able to really get to know Aaron Taylor-Kinney, even if he had to do it brick by brick.

Chapter 2 by Simply written

Chapter 2

The next morning, Aaron woke to his alarm. He was glad he have a good night's sleep.  Today was the first time he was actually using the skills he learned in vet school and getting paid for it.  Sure he had been helping with the ranch animals but every kid that grew up on a ranch had helped give injections on a farm. The first thing he did was start the water kettle.  He couldn’t wait for a cup of coffee. While the water heated up he pulled on khaki shorts that were the standard uniform for the vets out here. He buttoned up the shirt and then moved out to the kitchen so ready for a good cup of coffee.  He pulled the coffee press off the shelf and as he opened up the cupboard he stopped.

“SHIT!” Aaron said as he turned and headed to the door.  He could go without a lot of things but he needed his coffee in the morning and the coffee he purchased was probably still in the door of the director’s jeep. As he opened the door he nearly ran into Remmie.

“I heard the sound of a desperate neighbor crying out and I had a feeling it had to do with your caffeine fix.” Remmie extended a cup of steaming deep brown liquid.

“Thank you.” He took the cup from Remmie and took a careful sip and sighed. “Mine is in the director’s vehicle.”

“I can’t function without at least two cups of this.” He dropped down on the steps that were in front of Aaron’s door and Aaron dropped down next to him.

“Teddy used to bring it to me in bed every morning.” He took a long sip of the coffee realizing what he had just said and it was because he wasn’t fully awake yet.

Remmie could see by looking at Aaron’s face that whoever Teddy was, he was special and it must have been a really rough breakup. “Let me go get the coffee pot.  I have had my second.  There should be at least one more cup in there for you.” For that moment when he looked at his new friend, he saw raw pain and now was not the time to ask questions. He returned and filled Aaron’s cup and then made an excuse to go back inside.  “When you’re ready, just knock on my door and we’ll go to work. I’ll show you around the office and we can see if either of us have any work first thing this morning.” Remmie patted his shoulder and left him where he sat, not expecting him to respond.

As Aaron and Remmie walked to the clinic Remmie told him about a typical day. “Of course typical days could happen every day for a couple weeks or we could have a couple weeks of total insanity. I’m sure you learned all that during your orientation and I am always willing to come along to your emergencies if I am free and I hope you would do the same.”

“Sure. I can bandage someone or even do stitches if something happens.”

“That’s what I was hoping for.  I helped with anesthesia on a goat once.”

Aaron had to grin at how proud Remmie sounded. For the first time since they got to work Aaron said, “Thanks for the coffee and for not…” he stopped and took a deep breath.

“Hey, if you want to talk sometime, you know where to find me. Hell, we’ve known each other for less than 24 hours. I’m not about to spill my guts about my last girlfriend or about the boyfriend before that.” Aaron’s eyebrows went up. “Did that surprise you?”

“Nothing surprises me when it comes to who people fall in love with. My dads are gay, period, but Gus’ mom is bi but I was raised with love is love. If you find someone who touches your soul…”  Aaron abruptly turned and said, “Show me where the supplies are.”

The remainder of the morning the mood lightened and Remmie and Aaron worked side by side, shelving supplies and talking about cases.

Remmie had a couple patients walk in and when a young boy came in asking for the vet, Remmie locked up the clinic and, with the boy’s directions, Remmie drove the three of them out to a field where a couple men hovered over a cow. The boy had explained that his father and grandfather had delivered hundreds of calves but there was something wrong this time. This was their prize heifer and losing her would be very hard on the family economically.

An hour later, Aaron completed his exam on the second calf. Mother and both babies were strong and healthy, though a little smaller than most. As he packed his case he told the men that he would check on them in a couple days just to make sure both calves were feeding and as he stood with his case in his hand he saw Remmie standing by the jeep. 

“Where’d you disappear to?” Aaron asked.

“Once both calves were out and moving, I thought I would barter with them.  I know I could use some fresh vegetables and this family often sells or barters some of theirs.”

“Did you get what you were looking for?”  Aaron asked as he set his case in the back and then dropped onto the passenger seat.  Immediately he could smell something. 

“I did and then I scored dinner.”

“I knew I smelled something. I didn’t realize how hungry I was until I smelled that.”

“It looked really good. You will soon find out that most families out here eat stews most of the time.  They basically throw in anything they have available.  It will be great but better yet, tomorrow night I hope to make you dinner with the beef I got from them.”

Aaron yawned, “That sounds good. Once I get everything cleaned up at the office, I plan to  go home and take a shower.  I don’t care if the water goes cold.”

They arrived back in town and as they pulled the jeep inside the office garage, Remmie said, “You are an impressive vet. It was touch and go, wasn’t it?”

“It was.  I was afraid they weren’t going to make it and it was when I realized there were two calves that I could manipulate them into the right position.”

“I didn’t want to mention this earlier but that family is very well respected in the village and if it had gone wrong…”

“What? Would they have killed me?”

“No,” Remmie touches Aaron’s arm, “but they would probably spread the word that you were a bad vet or even worse, that you had negative spirits around you.” Remmie started cleaning some of the instruments for Aaron 

“Thanks for not telling me that,” Aaron bumped his hip against Remmie’s playfully. “And thanks for helping with this.”

“You would do the same.”


The two men got into a rhythm as the days went by. Remmie and Aaron spent most of the daylight hours together, but after dinner, they each went their separate ways.Remmie would have enjoyed spending time really getting to know Aaron.  They had grown up with such different backgrounds and yet he knew they would have so many topics to talk about. So far they talked about medicine or about the village. 

One night after Aaron had been there about two months, Remmie noticed he was getting very quiet. He had left the clinic at noon on Friday afternoon complaining about a headache. Remmie wasn’t surprised that when he got home that night Aaron didn’t respond when he knocked. As he made some dinner he heard noise coming from Aaron’s kitchen so he walked over again and again tapped on the door. After a few moments he called out, “Aaron, open this door.  If you don’t I will let myself in.”

“I’m fine.” Aaron’s words were slurred a bit.

Remmie tried again, “Come on, Aaron.  You had a headache. I am a doctor.  Let me make sure it isn’t anything serious.”

Under his breath Aaron said, “The wrong doctor.” He then spoke louder and said, “It’s nothing serious.” There was a loud crash from inside.

He dug in his pocket and put the spare key he had into the lock. “Aaron, where are you?” He rushed to the kitchen, hoping he was still there. He looked into the galley kitchen and found him sitting on the floor with a  nearly empty bottle of Konyagi in one hand and shattered glass on the other side. At 35% alcohol, he shouldn’t have been drinking it straight. He actually had never seen Aaron drink more than a couple drinks in the evening. 

“Is there an emergency? Do I need to birth a goat?” Aaron put his hand down on the floor and winced in pain as a piece of glass broke his skin but then he started laughing, “Me, birth a goat? I meant do I need to…”

Remmie took Aaron’s hand to see the damage and then helped Aaron to his bare feet after making sure there was no class under them.. “There is no medical crisis unless a fuddled vet is the cause.” He tried removing the bottle from Aaron’s grip but he wouldn’t let go of it. “Fine!” he said defeatedly as he helped Aaron to a chair.

As he looked at the cut in his hand, Remmie heard Aaron’s phone buzzing.  “It’s been doing that all afternoon…not talking,” Aaron commented and then pulled a face as Remmie probed the hand for any more glass. 

He  wrapped a towel around it and said, “You need a stitch or two.  Stay right here and I will be back in a minute.” As Remmie walked toward the door he slid Aaron’s phone off the end table and slipped it in his pocket. Once he was at his place he looked at Aaron’s phone.  He had learned the code long ago and he entered it.  He wanted to know who was calling and maybe he could find out what was going on. 

Once he had unlocked the screen he opened the missed calls.  There was one from his dads and brother but there were several from his sister.  As he was deciding what he should do, it buzzed again.  He saw it was Jess and answered. “Aaron’s phone. This is Julian Remington. Hi, Jessi, remember me?” One other time he had answered Aaron’s phone for him while he was working on a sheep.

“Oh, Remmie, I’m glad you answered! How is Aaron? I knew this was going to be a bad day!” Jessi paused long enough to take a breath.

“What is today?” Remmie asked. “He left work at noon and when I got home he didn’t answer.  I finally let myself in when I heard a crash.”

“Oh, god, is he alright? What happened?”

“He needs a couple stitches.  Good thing he has a doctor at his beck and call.”

“Too bad it isn’t the doctor he is needing right now,” Jessi sighed loudly. “You know about Teddy by now, right?”

“No more than hearing the name. Your brother hasn’t told me anything about his private life, although he has slipped a couple times and mentioned an earlier relationship.” He started moving back to Aaron’s place with his medical bag in hand. “Can you give me the cliff notes version? I need to put in some stitches.”

“Teddy was his best friend and lover since high school and right after he started Med school they found out he had brain cancer.  Aaron postponed a semester of school to be by his side. Four years ago today Teddy died and so did part of Aaron.” 

The phone started to skip and the last thing Remmie heard were the words soul and heal. “Damn, he wished he could have gotten a little more out of that call before it was dropped but he did get some answers. 

As he figured, Aaron was sleeping when he walked in but he was sure he was not out for the night. He washed his hands and put on gloves after laying out what he needed to put in the couple stitches. As he unwrapped the injured hand, Aaron started to stir but he was fully awake once he felt the needle with the lidocaine being injected.

Aaron moaned and took a long swig from the bottle he still had in his hand. He then smiled, “Hey, Remmie, I can’t feel my hand.” He tried to pull his hand away from Remmie but he had a firm grip on it.

“Hold still for a minute. I just need to tie off this suture.” He finished the stitch and wrapped the hand with a gauze bandage. “There, now why don’t I make you something to eat.  I bet you didn’t have any lunch did you?”

Aaron took another swallow from his bottle and shook his head.  “I’m not hungry.” He looked up at Remmie and then raised the bottle again but this time he was stopped.  Remmie took the bottle away from him.

“Aaron, that’s not going to solve whatever is hurting you.”

“Hurting? Oh, ya, the headache.  I do…”

“I’m going to get us something to eat.  I have dinner ready at my place.  I’ll be back.” He glanced back and his heart broke when he saw Aaron’s face. It all made sense now.  It wasn’t just a bad breakup. How could he compete with a dead lover? Now wasn’t the time to think about that.  Right now, he just needed to be there for him.

When he returned with the food he had made, Aaron had somehow managed to get silverware out and a couple plates.  He had also gotten another bottle of Konyagi out but couldn’t get it open with one hand numb. Remmie set the food down on the table and, after grabbing some soda out of the refrigerator, he opened the booze.  He filled the glasses half full of soda before topping them off with the Konyagi. Aaron reached for the glass but, due to the numbness in his fingers, he couldn’t pick it up. He ate a few bites before picking up the glass with his uninjured hand and emptied it. 

“Aaron, you need to slow down with that.  You are just going to feel horrible tomorrow but it isn’t going to change anything.”

“The point is not to feel anything,” Aaron looked over at Remmie and ate a couple more bites of the meal before speaking again. “Can you fill my glass?”

“Of course I will.” He picked up a bottle of water and opened it for him.

“That’s not what I meant.”

“I know and I’m not cutting you off but you need to get some water in you so you aren’t dehydrated. Then if you want another one, I will get it for you.”  Aaron drained the bottle of water and then handed his glass to Remmie who refilled it.

“What do you know?” Aaron asked, seeming more sober now that he had food and water in him. “And how do you know anything?”

“Are you done eating? I’ll clear the table if you are.”

“I am. Now, Remmie, talk.”

Remmie stuck the leftovers in the fridge and as he rinsed off the plates he began to talk.  “Your family has been trying to get you on the phone most of the day. You weren’t answering it so I did.” He walked back to the table and put a hand on Aaron’s shoulder. “I’m worried about you, my friend, so I spoke to Jessi.”

Aaron stood up too fast and had to grab the table for balance. “She had no right to tell you anything.”

Remmie stood up and guided Aaron to the seating area and they both sat down. “Aaron, your sister loves you so much. She had tried to get you all day and she didn’t tell me much. She didn’t go into any detail.  All I know is that the man you loved died on this day four years ago.”

“I’m not talking about him!” Aaron said decisively and then mumbled, “Fuck, my hand throbs. I want another drink.”

“Is this the way Teddy would want you to remember him,drink yourself stupid until you aren’t thinking straight?”

“Don’t you talk about him! You didn’t know him. You…” For the first time that evening, Aaron began to cry and Remmie put his arms around him gently at first but when Aaron held onto him,  he tightened his arms around him and let him sob.

Aaron pulled himself back together after a few minutes. “Remmie, you can go home.  I’m going to go to bed.” 

“I’ll go get something to help with the pain in your hand while you get in bed.” Remmie left him alone.

Aaron had no more fight in him.  He went to the bedroom. stripped and got in bed. When Remmie returned he grabbed a couple bottles of water on his way through the kitchen, and sat on the edge of the bed. He handed the pain pill to Aaron and took the lid off one of the bottles, handing it to him.  As Aaron took the pill, Remmie loosened the lid on the second bottle. 

“Drink that bottle.” Aaron followed the directive. “Would you like me to stay? I can sleep in the living room.”

“No, go.” As he watched him walk to the door Aaron added, “Thanks,” before giving into the alcohol and pure exhaustion.

Remmie added, “Knock on the wall if you need anything,” but he was fairly sure Aaron was already passed out.

He returned to his apartment and the first thing he did was check his phone.  He hadn’t wanted a distraction. He was surprised but thankful there was a text message from Jessi. It asked him to call her no matter what time it was.  He got a bottle of water and as he called her number he wondered how she had his number.

“I am so glad you called.  How is he?”

“He’s out.  I plan to check on him again before I go to bed but I gave him a pain killer so he should sleep.”

“Pain killer? Is he hurt?”

“He cut his hand. It isn’t serious.  I put in a couple stitches. I’m sure it was throbbing.”

“Thank god you were there. I was going to try to be there today but I had an assignment.”

“Jess, how did you get my phone number?”

“Aaron may not have told you much but he trusts you.  He gave me your number in case I couldn’t get through to him. Does he have any time off? I met someone who has a place at Lake Victoria and I thought if he had free time, I could surprise him and take him there.  I think it is only about an hour from where you are.”

“How soon can you get here? He has next weekend off. Can you be here on Friday? That’s only five days?”

He heard some soft noise on Jessi’s end and then she said, “I can be there. Do you think it would work for you to bring him on Friday morning?

“That should work. I have to be out of my place anyway.  The sub that is coming is staying there while we’re on break.”

“Are you sure it isn’t too much trouble?”

“I think you are exactly what he needs. I like to explore on my weekends off. I had asked him if he wanted to come on my adventure but he never told me yes or no.  Now it makes sense.”

“Plan on Friday morning and I will send the location to you later this week.”

He could hear her excitement. “I will force him to come with me somehow.”

“Julian Remington, I really like you! I’ll be in touch.  I need to go.”

The next morning, Remmie waited until he heard movement next door and then he went over to check on him. He wanted to ensure his hand looked alright and brought supplies to rewrap it. He tapped softly.  “Coming.” Moments later the door opened up and Aaron with only a towel wrapped around his waist, stood in front of him.

“Hey, you look better than I expected.” He was talking about the hangover he expected him to have but he also noticed the lean, muscled body.  He had seen him semi dressed before but today something stirred deep inside of him.

“Thanks for making me drink the water. I think that really helped, plus whatever painkiller you gave me, it really knocked me out.”

“How is the pain today?”

“It is pulsing like a heartbeat.”

Holding up what he had in his hand he said, “Let me rebandage it for you.” They both sat down and Remmie saw no sign of infection so he rewrapped it.  Then he reached in his pocket and offered Aaron another pill.  “This isn’t as strong as last night’s but it will hopefully stop the pounding.”

Aaron swallowed it and then stood to pour himself a cup of coffee. “Do you want a cup? I have plenty.”

“I could use one more.”

As he set the coffee cups on the table he looked at Remmie.  He realized he wasn’t dressed.  “Give me a minute to pull on some clothes. Help yourself to cream and sugar.”

Remmie was amazed at Aaron’s composure this morning. He poured a cup for each of them and by that time, Aaron returned with a pair of exercise shorts and a tank top. “You don’t have plans for next weekend, do you?”

“No, I figured I’d just hang out here.  I know your place is needed for the subs but you could bunk here with me.”

“I have a friend that just offered me a cabin at Lake Victoria.  It is stunning there. I haven’t seen his place but it will be a change for both of us. I think we could both use a different view and a place neither of us have to deliver a baby of some kind.”

“You don’t have to take me with you.  You would probably like a break from me, too. I didn’t mean to drag you into my emotional breakdown yesterday.”

“Aaron, I enjoy your company. I’m really sorry about Teddy. I have never been in love like that. I won’t say I know how you feel but please know I’m always here if you just need to talk about him.” They both drank a little more coffee before Remmie stood up, “I need to check on a little guy I saw yesterday.  His fever was a little higher than I like. Do you want to come along? Just to get out for a while?”

“I think I’ll stay here but thanks, Rem. And, about the weekend, I’d like that.  I came here to see the world, not just a small village. That’s something Teddy would say, would have said.” Aaron flinched as he changed the tense.

Remmie smiled at him, “We can do whatever you want to do once we get there and you are in charge of the topics of conversation.”

“Thanks, Remmie. Maybe I will come along if the offer is still open.  The fresh air might do me good.”

“Can you be ready in 10 minutes? I’ll go get the jeep.”

“10 minutes will be fine.”

The next week Remmie wasn’t sure if it was wishful thinking but Aaron seemed to be a little more relaxed.  He felt he had gained a little more trust from Aaron.  The fact that he hadn’t brought up the evening again, except to check his hand. 

As they ate dinner together on Thursday evening at Aaron’s, they were talking about the trip to Lake Victoria. Remmie realized he needed to pack as well. He really wasn’t sure what he was going to do for the weekend but he was glad Aaron would get to spend time with his sister. 

“So you’re sure it is safe to swim in the lake?” Aaron asked.

“As long as you, we follow the directions and pay attention.  There are signs that tell you where it is usually safe.”

“It is really…” Aaron stopped when Remmie’s phone rang.

He looked at his phone and  he saw  Jessi’s name pop up. He quickly stood.  “I need to take this.  I might need to check something at my apartment.” Remmie babbled as he rushed out the door. That wasn’t weird at all. “Jess, I didn’t expect you to call.  Did you make it to the cabin?”

“Remmie, I am so sorry.  You didn’t tell Aaron anything, did you?”

“Of course I didn’t. What’s up? Are you going to be later?”

“I’m going to be MUCH later. I’m not going to make it. I was just about to board the plane when all flights were canceled due to a typhoon.”

“Oh no, Jess. I’m glad you weren’t caught in the storm but now what do I do? Do I tell him? We have to go somewhere.”

“Take him to the cabin.  My friend said it was fine for the two of you to use it. I will try to call tomorrow, if we don’t lose cell service.”

“I’m sorry, Jess.  I know you were looking forward to this weekend, too.”

“I’m just glad he has you, Julian. Thanks for texting and letting me know he is doing ok.”

“He does seem better than he has been in a while.”

“I have to go.  I need to take a bus back to my apartment.” The line went dead.

“Shit,” he said under his breath.  Well, now he knew where he was going to be for the weekend but he felt bad Aaron wasn’t going to see his sister. He took a breath and walked back into Aaron’s apartment.

“Is everything alright? Do you need to go out? I can go with you.”

“No, everything is fine.  They just wanted me to know all was well so I wouldn’t worry. Now, what are we going to take along to eat this weekend?”

“I hope you don’t mind.  On my last appointment today was at the chief’s farm. When I told them what we were doing this weekend, they put together a large basket of food.  I have everything from fresh bread and vegetables to steak and fish. They even gave me some kind of pastries for dessert.”

“Well, it sounds like we have most of what we need. We can stop near the cabin to pick up the remainder of the supplies.”

They finished eating and cleaned up together which had become their habit. When all the leftovers had been put away and the dishes washed and put away. “I think I am going to look at my bag and repack it a couple of times.” Remmie said with a chuckle.  “I always repack about 6 times.

“You’re worse than me. If we were going to be around a lot of other people, I would repack several times but you’ve seen me at my worst and I haven’t scared you away yet.”

“Why don’t you bring one pair of slacks and a decent shirt.  Maybe we will feel like going out to dinner one night.”

“That sounds like a plan.”

“We don’t need to decide tonight.  We don’t need to plan anything this weekend except when we are leaving and when we are coming back.” 

Aaron smiled at Remmie, making Remmie’s heart skip a beat. “I like those plans.”

As Remmie looked through his weekend bag, unpacking and repacking he kept looking at the clothes. He held a shirt up to his bare chest and wondered if Aaron would like the tribal print that had deep, rich colors in it. He wasn’t sure if it was during Aaron’s night of mourning or if it had happened before that, but he was in love with Aaron Taylor-Kinney and he would do anything to make him smile at him again like he had tonight.

Chapter 3 by Simply written

Chapter 3

Remmie and Aaron talked non stop for the first half hour. At that point, they ventured beyond their familiar surroundings, and the scenery began to transform. As they got closer to the lake, Remmie was trying to decide how to tell Aaron that Jessi set this all up and had planned to be there with him. Aaron made the decision easier by saying, “Jessi would love it here.  Her photos would be amazing. “Just look at those mountains over there, the fog at the top—she would geek out.”

“It is stunning.” Julian took a deep breath and went on, “Aaron, I need to tell you something. Jessi was supposed to be here this weekend.  The place we are staying at is a friend of hers.” Aaron was just staring at him. “The call I got during dinner last night was from her. There was a typhoon that closed down the airport.”

“A typhoon? Is she Ok? Is she in danger?” This spilled out of Aaron’s mouth.

“She is fine. She texted before we left and said they were getting a lot of rain but they were not in the path of the storm.” Remmie was surprised he accepted the news so well.

“So she was going to spend the weekend with us?”

“Actually she was going to spend the weekend with you.  I would have probably headed into the city. Her friend wanted us to come up anyway.” He glanced at Aaron and saw he was lost in his own thoughts. After several minutes Remmie said, “I’m sorry Jessi isn’t going to make it.”

“I would have loved that but since I wasn’t expecting it, it doesn’t hurt as much. We are going to a beautiful area where we don’t have to do anything if you don't want to and if she was planning to come, it lets me know she will get here sometime in the next couple months.”

Remmie reached over and squeezed Aaron’s forearm lightly, “Your sister really loves you.”

“I know and I really love her. I’m not saying we never fought but it is never serious.” Remmie didn’t respond but he wondered how anyone ever really got mad at Aaron.

The GPS told them to get ready to turn. And when Remmie steered them off the main road, he stopped. “Jessi said we were going to be by the lake but this is leading us away from it. Should I keep going to the lake? I mean she got the directions wrong.” Aaron started laughing. “What’s so funny?”

“I was just thinking what Jessi’s reaction would be  if she heard you say she was wrong. Jessi was never wrong.

“I didn't get that feeling from her.”

“It was more of a joke by the time she was ten. One time when she was about 6, she brought her pony into the house and managed to get him all the way upstairs and into her bedroom before anyone knew it.  Emma, who managed the house heard the thumping up there and, when the pony was placed back in the barn, Jess had to face our dads. Dad Brian, was worthless at correcting her.  All she had to do was throw her arms around his neck and say ‘Love you, Daddy’ and he couldn’t be stern.

”So Justin had to handle it?” Remmie had never heard Aaron open up like this.

Aaron continued, “Ya, he said something like, ‘Jessie, you were wrong to bring Coco Puff into the house. Ponies do not belong in the house.’ Jessie just looked at him, from Dad’s lap, and said, ‘Daddy, I tried to tell Coco Puff he wouldn’t like it but he followed me in the house and up the stairs. And Dad asked, ‘Did he like it?’ and Jess just looked at him and said, ‘Coco was wrong. He missed Cookie and Catari.”

“Cookie and Catari?” Remmie asked.

“Cookie was my pony and Catari was Gus’ paint.” Aaron had a far away look. He was lost in thoughts of his family.

“At six she thought that all up?”

“Ya. I think we have sat here long enough.  Let’s follow her directions.  We have a lot of light left.  We can enjoy the scenery and if we have to turn around, we can enjoy it on the way back.”

Remmie began up the rough road that continued to move up the mountain. Sometimes they couldn’t see the lake at all and then there would be a break in the foliage and the sparkling lake appeared again. “Since we keep spotting the lake, I am guessing the road will head downward again.”

“I’m enjoying the ride. I can’t remember the last time I was so relaxed.”

After driving a short distance, the GPS indicated they had reached their destination. What they had reached was a driveway so they turned and followed the path.  The elevation began to get a little lower and when Remmie made a turn the cabin came into view. It was a small structure that blended into the nature around it. There was a lovely view of the mountains over top of the building but the lake was not visible from the parking area.

“This may not be what we expected but we can always drive to the lake.  I don’t know the last time I saw any other signs of civilization and that is just fine with me,” Aaron said as he exited the jeep.”

“I couldn’t agree more.  I love being with people but every so often I don’t want to be in a crowd.” 

“You have a job where you always have to be social.”

Remmie looked at him, “So do you.”

“Not always, I don’t have to be polite to the chicken that seems to be injured.”

“I guess that’s true but you do to the owner.”

They met at the back of the jeep and each grabbed their clothes and the food baskets and bags. Walking to the door, Aaron said, “How do we get in?”

“Jess said it was your birthday, two digit month and two digit day. If I remember correctly that would be 0718. He punched the numbers in and they heard the lock disengage. Aaron entered first but stopped dead in his tracks, blocking Remmie's entry.  “What is it, Aaron?”

Aaron moved in far enough for Remmie to enter. “Only Jess could stumble onto the person who owns this place. I wonder what he or she does for a living.” Aaron set down the food and clothes he was carrying and moved ahead.  The house was much larger than it appeared.

“Wow! And I didn’t think we were near the lake.” Remmie set his load down as well and together they moved into the house.  There were large windows and French doors leading out onto a large deck, all looking over the lake. 

Aaron reached back and took Remmie’s hand and excitedly said, “Let’s go check out the deck.” They walked across the living room and opened the doors, stepping out onto the deck. Although it was a very warm day there was a breeze coming off the lake making it feel much cooler. At one end of the deck there were lounge chairs with umbrellas scattered around. On the other side there was a grill as well as a dining table that was under a pergola. “Look at the size of this deck and the lake is huge!  I bet the steps over there lead down to the lake.”

Remmie walked to the railing to get a better view of the shore, “You’re right but I’m not sure we would want to. Come see.” He waved Aaron over.

Leaning over the rail, Aaron saw what he was talking about.  At first glance he could see three large Nile crocodiles. “Glad I don’t sleep walk. Teddy did when..” he paused but then finished the sentence. “When we first met. Let’s go put our food away and check out the rest of the house.”

“That sounds like a good plan,” Remmie said as he followed Aaron into the house. A smile played across his lips, knowing Aaron was finally starting to trust him with his past. 

After getting the food put away, Aaron opened a bottle of wine that had been sitting on the counter, and poured them each a glass.  There had been a note on the counter for Jessi that any wine in the kitchen was theirs to drink. There was a nice variety and there was no way they could drink all of it this weekend. They moved out of the kitchen and down the hall toward the bedrooms. The first door was to a small powder room so they moved further down the hall. They found a study behind the next door.  There were three doors left and since there were supposed to be three bedrooms they weren’t surprised to see two comfortable rooms similar in size with queen sized beds and a jack and jill bathroom.

The last room was large. There was a seating area with a view of the lake. “What a view.  Can you imagine what the sunrise looks like from here? Or would it be a sunset?” Remmie said as he looked at the sunshine creating diamonds on the lake. 

“Why don’t you sleep here and you can find out? You’re tall enough to enjoy the king sized bed.” Aaron stepped into the on suite bathroom. “They didn’t skimp on anything in the place.”

Remmie stuck his head in, “It is very nice but I don’t need to stay in here.  Why won’t we both just take one of the other rooms.  It will be less for us to clean up before we leave.” He really wanted to suggest they share the big room but he knew that was never going to happen but he could dream and he was fairly sure he would tonight.

Aaron started some music and they sat out on the deck under an umbrella as they drank a second glass of wine. “Thank you, Julian.” 

Julian Remington nearly fell off his chair.  As far as he could remember Aaron had never called him Julian before. He loved the way it sounded coming from him. “Thanks for what? This was all Jessi’s  plan.”

“You had already tried to get me to go away with you.  Jessi just scored this great place for us. You getting hungry? I am.”

“Let’s go make dinner and get another glass of wine.” Remmie stood and offered his hand to Aaron who took it and stood as he was pulled up. The meat had been roasted by a local herdsman so they worked side by side chopping vegetables making the side dishes. While Remmie stirred the vegetable, Aaron sliced some rolls and then took a pitcher out to fill with water.  He tried to g out of the fridge door but nothing came out.  When he opened thet icee freezer door he saw there was a bin of ice in there along with a container with another note on it.  

After filling the pitcher with ice he set it down on the counter and then pulled out the container. He covered the ice with water and then picked up the note on the tub. He read it outloud. “Jessi and friend, a sweet treat for you.  There is some of my finest in this batch. Don’t eat too many of them.” Aaron took off the lid and found a dozen brownies with a thick fudge frosting on the top.

“Is that what I think it is?” Remmie asked, looking over Aaron’s shoulder.

“I think so and they smell amazing.” Remmie bent over Aaron’s shoulder and breathed in deep.

“I guess I know what we are having for dessert.”

 They carried their meal out to the deck, along with another bottle of wine. The meal was great.  The roasted meat was perfectly tender and had been seasoned delicately. “I have to say the spices they use were different than I was used to but now I really like it.” Aaron cut off another bite of meat. “On the ranch we always had a variety of different meats.”

“What was your favorite?”

“I don’t know if I really had a favorite but I did live bison which you just can’t get in many places.” Aaron added, “We had a herd of bison.  We probably actually had beefalo most of the time.”

“I am sure I have never seen the type of place you grew up in.”

“Well, I have only been in London a couple times.  We spent time in Ireland.”

“Your sister in law is from there, right?”

“She did and my grandpa has family there on the Kinney side.” They continued the light banter as the light faded and they began to see lights coming on around the lake. “It is beautiful here. Now we can see how many places are built around the lake.”

“It would be easy to forget there was any other human life around without having this view.” Remmie said and then picked up the empty bottle of wine. “I’ll get a new one.”

Aaron stood as well, “We might as well bring the food in and bring dessert out?” He raised his eyebrows as he said it. 

“Are you sure we should eat them? Why don’t you text Jessi and ask her about this friend.”

“That’s a good idea.  Hope she has service.” Aaron texted her and moment’s later his phone rang.

“He isn’t gay? He isn’t attracted to you?”

“My lovelife is not why I texted.  Whose house are we staying at?”

“She didn’t want me to tell you her name.”“Hey, bro! Are you having a good time? I really wanted to be there with you! From what I’ve gotten from our conversations, I think Julian is a good substitute. I think the two of you might be a good…he is gay, right?”

Aaron moved out of the kitchen, away from Remmie, hoping he hadn’t heard Jessi’s comment. The truth was a couple times today he had looked at Julian and asked himself the same thing. “Jessi, that’s not going to happen.”

“Ok, her business is what we really want to know about.”

“Did she leave you brownies? Damn, I am so jealous. Her edibles are so good. And yes she is a large exporter of the best weed in all of Africa but she does it as legally as possible and she never starts the battles.”

“How did you meet her?”

“She gave me an interview when she was visiting Bali recently. It is safe to eat those brownies just don’t eat too many at one time.”

“Thanks, Jess, and the place is beautiful. I haven’t been this relaxed in months.”

“It sounds like you have been drinking some of her wine, too.”

“Goodbye, Jessi.  When are you coming to visit?”

“I’ll get back with you next week and see what I can work out. Text me your calendar. Love you, Aaron. Give Julian a chance.” Then the line went dead.

“Sorry I left you to clean up.  Jessi wanted to talk.”

“All I did was put dishes in the washer and food in the fridge.  Did Jessi give you any information about the owner?”

“Just that the owner is a she and she grows the best cannabis in Africa and that she does it the most peaceful way possible.”

“Well, may I suggest we open another bottle of wine and go outside with a couple brownies.”

“Sounds good to me. I kind of wish we would have taken a walk this afternoon.  I feel like I need to move a little.” Aaron commented as they moved back out on the deck.

“I guess we could walk down the steps to the lake and back up a couple of times.  Well, maybe not all the way down. The crocs may be hungry,” Remmie said as he looked down at the lake.

They both could tell they had drunk a bottle of wine. “I think this is going to be an amazingly relaxing weekend.” Aaron moved to the outside speaker and turned the music up louder. It had been on all day but they hadn’t paid much attention to it. Remmie sat on one of the cushioned loveseats setting the wine and the brownies on the table in front of it. Aaron came over and sat next to him.  He picked up half of a brownie and took a bite. “Jess was right about these. This is one of the best brownies I have ever had.”

“Guess I better try one.” He picked up the other half and took a bite. “Oh, Jessi wasn’t kidding.  This is great!” He relaxed back and said,”Tell me more about all the animals you had on the ranch. Or maybe tell me about your island. Was it anything like this?”

Aaron turned toward Remmie and as he laid his leg on the seat his skin rested against Remmie’s thigh. “The island was great.  The only thing similar to this place is we had a large deck, however, we had a pool and it was about four stories down to the water. Of course, we didn’t have crocodiles down there.” He nibbled on his brownie. “The parties we had out there were so much fun. Dad had a lot of artwork scattered here and there with wonderful stained glass scattered around. Teddy loved visiting there. There was always love in that place.  Uncle Em and Uncle James are still there.  James was in government for years but he just retired. They are a great couple.  They came with us from Pittsburgh.” They both finished their brownie.

Aaron stood and swayed to the music coming through the speakers. He was certainly feeling the effects of the brownie and the wine. “I remember visiting Pittsburgh but I don’t really remember living there. My bio father lived there but he died years ago.  My grandma moved away years ago.”

“Your bio dad? I thought Justin was your blood father.”

“Justin is my half brother by blood.Come dance with me, Julian. I want to dance.” The music had changed and Aaron offered Remmie his hand.

Remmie stood as he took his hand, “I hope you know how to swing dance,” he said as he spun Aaron against his chest. Their eyes met for a moment and they both grinned before they fell into step as if they had done this a hundred times. 

After three tunes the music changed. It was now soft and slow.  Remmie cautiously put an arm around Aaron’s back and gently pulled him in. He didn’t fight it at all. As he rested his head on Remmie’s chest and Remmie’s arm pulled him closer. Aaron relaxed against him and they swayed through the remainder of the song.

“Remmie, will you kiss me?” Aaron looked up into his handsome, mocha toned face. “It has been so long since I have…” Julian’s mouth lowered to Aaron’s and very gently brushed his warm lips against Aaron’s. When Aaron leaned in and parted his lips slightly. Remmie didn’t need any more prompting. He deepened the kiss and slipped his tongue into Aaron’s greedy moth. Aaron’s arms went around his neck and pressed the full length of his body against his companion. 

Slowly Remmie loosened his grip and slowly put space between them. “Aaron, I don’t think …”

Aaron stepped back, creating more space between them. “Thank you. I should…”

“Aaron, don’t do that. Don’t run away. We did nothing wrong.  You did nothing wrong.  You are not cheating on Teddy. You are living for him.  I know I never got to meet him but anyone you loved so much had to be wonderful and he wouldn’t want you to continue this way.” 

“My head knows you’re right but my heart is still wary.”

“Why don’t you tell me all about him.  We both have another half of a brownie waiting for us.”

“Teddy was shy. I remember when he moved to Colorado.  His parents were diplomats so were out of the country a lot of the year.  His grandparents, at that time, lived about an hour away.  He was a boarding student but it wasn’t long before he started spending every weekend at the ranch.  He was my very best friend and we were just friends until later in our junior year.” Aaron adjusted his position and he half leaned, half laid on Remmie’s lap. Remmie wrapped his arms around him as he continued to talk.

“As kids we spent hours out with the mini animals. We would sit on hay bales and as we played we talked about working in the same town when he was a doctor and I was a vet. As we got older, it was where we stole away to kiss and just be close. He wasn’t comfortable showing affection around my family. I still remember the first time he kissed me at the end of a meal and my whole family cheered.”

Aaron talked until the sky began to lighten. He sat up and said, “I’m sorry, Julian. I kept you up all night. 

Remmie blushed when Aaron called him by his given name. “Thank you for trusting me with that.” Together they stood and moved into the house. We can sleep as long as we want.”

Aaron hugged Remmie as they separated for the night.  “You’re a good friend, Remmie.”

Julian moved down to his room and got in bed. His mind was whirring. He trusted me with his memories with Teddy.  He called me by my name. He had never heard Julian said so sweetly.

The remainder of the weekend was full of relaxation, exploring the area, good food, and getting to know each other. Now that he had broken down the barrier, Aaron didn’t shy away from bringing up Teddy. Although they were much closer, and they didn’t avoid contact, there was no  more romance between them.

As they were packing up for the weekend, Aaron got a text. “This weekend just can’t get any better!” he said excitedly.

“What is it, Aaron?”

“It’s Jessi! She is coming to our village the next weekend we have off.”

“Oh, that will be great. I can’t wait to meet her.”

“You are going to love her and you’ve seen pictures.  She is stunningly beautiful.”

“Yes, I happened to notice that. Your entire family is gorgeous.”

Aaron reached out and touched Julian’s cheek, “You didn’t miss out in the looks department.” He ran his hand down to Remmie’s chest and left it there, “Or in your physique.” Their eyes locked for a moment but Aaron quickly dropped his hand and picked up a basket of leftover food. “I think if you grab that bag, we have everything. Hopefully we left it clean enough to be invited back. There is so much more around here we didn’t see.”

“I couldn’t agree more.  That deck out there might be one of my favorite places in the world.” As they pulled away, they both went into their own thoughts. Aaron felt like he was leaving a load of bricks on that deck.  There were still a few in place but he felt freer than he had in four years. Remmie felt the same way.  Now that the barrier was down, would Aaron ever be willing to share his heart again.

Chapter 4 by Simply written

Chapter 4

Aaron and Remmie were stopped before they even arrived home. Remmie was needed immediately. A teenage boy on a four-wheeler. His mother was having issues delivering her baby. “Go, Remmie.  I know what house he is talking about. I’ll empty the jeep and come over to see if you need help.” He shouted the last sentence as Remmie jumped on behind the teenager and they were off. 

A midwife had been with the mother for eight hours but she had stopped progressing. The midwife didn’t speak any English but a young girl translated for Remmie letting him know how long this had been going on and that she expected there were two babies involved.  Aaron arrived with extra towels just as Julian tried to manipulate the babies from the outside of the stomach and then, with the woman crying out, Remmie reached into her attempting to reposition the baby.  And then he was holding a very small infant.

With the mother crying out again, Remmie handed the first baby to the midwife. Instinctively Aaron moved to the first baby. The mother cried out as another contraction ripped through her and as Remmie focused on her, Aaron looked down at the tiny girl that lay on a towel in front of him. The midwife was trying to get her to move  but the baby was not responding.  As the midwife began to panic, Aaron took the infant from her and positioning her on her side he ran his finger into her mouth.  He then began tapping her back, tilting the baby’s head a little lower than her body and all of the sudden she began to cough and then, just as Remmie delivered the second baby girl, a loud squeal came from the first one.

The midwife began crying in relief. Remmie handed the second baby to her and moved next to Aaron to give the baby he had saved a brief exam. Twenty minutes later, Aaron and Remmie were on their way back to their homes. Neither of them had said a word until they were at the edge of the village. “You saved that baby’s life,” Remmie said softly.

“How do you do that all the time? I have never been so scared in my life.  I mean I am concerned for my patients but they aren’t humans.”

“You would be an amazing doctor. I mean how many different species do you know how to diagnose? I am just so thankful you were here. I would have had to leave the mother and the midwife would have taken over but being twins…”

Aaron stopped the jeep at the garage door of the office and Remmie opened the door so he could drive in.  Then, after putting everything back where it belonged and restocking his medical bag, they walked back to there house.

“Next time I’m delivering quadruplets I’ll take you along. You know I maybe shouldn’t say it but I just treated that baby the same way I would have treated a kid or a lamb. I cleared her mouth and then worked to get the airway cleared.”

Remmie stopped in front of his own door and turned to face Aaron. “Not the way I expected us to end our time off, This weekend was…”

Aaron reached up and kissed Remmie’s cheek. “Julian, I don’t know if you realize how much this weekend did for me. How much you did for me? I’m still not ready to forget Teddy but I feel more…”

“Aaron, you should never forget your first love.” Julian slowly drug the back of his fingers down Aaron’s cheek. “Just remember, I am always here for you.”

Everytime Aaron called him by his given name he wanted to take Aaron in his arms and kiss him and tell him how much he loved him. This was no exception but he made the right choice and turned around and entered his house. He turned and smiled, “Thanks again for the hand tonight and I hope you sleep  well.”

“Good night, Remmie.” Aaron waited until the lights in Remmie’s bedroom came on and the kitchen went dark.  He entered his own place and was soon in bed himself.

Aaron and Remmie both had plenty of work with their patients to keep them busy the next few weeks.  They spent their evenings together playing games and talking about their childhoods.  They both came from relative affluence but both of them had been taught a work ethic and compassion. The relationship had definitely changed from co-workers and neighbors to best friends. 

One night when Aaron was talking to his dads both Justin and Brian noticed a change in their middle child. After he had talked nonstop for fifteen minutes about Julian and their adventures, Justin asked, “It sounds like you and Julian have gotten closer over the last few weeks.”

Aaron collected his thoughts for a moment and then said, “Well, we have a lot in common. We live next to each other and have meals together most of the time.”

“What your dad is asking is if you two are screwing,” Brian said bluntly.

“Brian, shut up.” Justin shoved his shoulder so he was out of camera view. “Aaron, I was not asking that. I just get the feeling that you are more content then you have been in a long while.”

Aaron smiled, “I guess I am.  Who would have thought I’d find myself back in Africa.”

Brian popped back into frame and Justin said, “We’re happy for you, Aaron.  We just want you to find what you want in life.”

After talking about Jessi’s upcoming trip they soon said goodbye.  Justin glared at Brian after the call ended. “Really, Brian? Our son hasn’t been able to build any real relationships in four years and when he finally does, you ask them if they are fucking?”

“I didn’t say fucking. You’re not really mad at me, are you?” Brian tried to kiss his neck but Justin pushed him away.

“Sometimes, Brian, I wonder how I could still be with you after 30 years.” Justin tried to keep a straight face but as Brian got on his knees in front of him and he started to unzip Justin’s fly, Justin tipped Brian’s head back and kissed him. “Damn, it’s that face. You know you’re stuck with me,” he said as he dropped back giving Brian full access to his now exposed cock.

“So are you excited to see Jessi?” Remmi asked as he sat a plate in front of Aaron.

Aaron smiled, nodded at the plate of food, and said, “Thanks, I appreciate you making dinner. I know it was my turn.”

“You had enough to do tonight.  I can come over and help you with the last minute stuff if you would like me to.”

“I think all I have left to do is put on the clean sheets.”

“Well, I’ll help you.  It is always easier to do that with two.”

“What would I do without you, Rem? You are always ready to help.”

Remmie almost added, I always will be, but he stopped himself. “Have you decided who’s sleeping where?”

“I’ll give her the bedroom but who knows.  I don’t expect we will get a lot of sleep in the first 48 hours. I hope she gets to stay the full two weeks but I doubt it. She is really excited to come out to the farms with me. I have told her she needs to get permission to take photos.”

“Most of them will be fine with it.” Remmie said as he ate the last bite. “Did you have enough dinner? There is still some on the stove.”

“No, I’ve had enough. As always, it was really good.” Aaron said, touching his hand. “Want me to help with the dishes?”

“No, let’s go get your place ready for Jessi and then I will take care of the kitchen.” 

They walked out of Remmie’s door and into Aaron’s.  The place looked great.  He had fresh flowers on the table  and the pillows were fluffed and he had picked up a couple new throws he thought Jessi would like to have. “Julian, I can really…”

“Let’s get that bed made. Then maybe we can open a bottle of wine.  If she’s not coming until tomorrow do you want to wait until then to put on the fresh sheets?”

“No, I’m planning on sleeping on the couch tonight. It could actually be the day after tomorrow before she gets here.”

Remmie almost told him she would be here early tomorrow.  She had texted him that afternoon and she had arrived in Tanzania and she would be here before noon. He linked his arm with Aaron’s and they moved into the bedroom. As Aaron shook out the bottom sheet a stray pillowcase popped up and hit Remmie in the face. “Oops,” Aaron smirked.

“So that’s the way it’s going to be, huh?” Remmie grabbed the edge of the sheet and did a sharp yank throwing Aaron off balance and at the same time he slipped and the next thing they knew both of them were rolling around on the mattress getting the sheet wrapped around both of them as Julian reached over to hug Aaron when they both jumped. 

“Is there room on that monkey pile for one more or am I interrupting something?” Jessi stood in the door for just a second before taking a couple steps and flinging herself into her brother’s now open arms.

“What are you doing here? I mean you weren’t supposed to be here before tomorrow afternoon at the earliest.”

After kissing both of Aaron’s cheeks she looked over at Remmie.  “You must be the famous Julian Remington and you can keep a secret!” She scooted off of Aaron and nestled between the two men. She leaned over and kissed Remmie’s cheeks as well. “No one told me you were so cute!” she elbowed Aaron. “Of course, walking in on what I did maybe…”

“You saw two grown men acting like 10 year olds. I’m afraid that’s all,” was Remmie’s response. “And now, I will leave you two to catch up and I will impose myself again tomorrow.” 

“Julian, you can stay,” Aaron said as Remmie walked to the door.

“I know I could, and I appreciate that, but I will have lots of time to get to know your beautiful sister.”                                                                                                                                                                   

Aaron pulled Jessi close, “So Julian knew you would be here tonight?”

“No, but he knew I was in country. The couple pictures I have seen of Remmie didn’t do him justice. He is lushious. You two aren’t together are you? Do I have any chance with him?”

“Julian loves love. He is bi.”about him but tonight, we need to make this bed and then open a bottle of something and talk about everything wonderful that has happened to both of us since we last saw each other.”

“I have missed you so much, bro. I love you.”

“Does that mean you and he are…” Jessi looked hopefully at him. “You do know that Teddy…”

“Please, Jess, I have come a long way when it comes to Teddy and I do want to talk with you 

Aaron  kissed her forehead and stood up, offering her his hand. As Aaron tossed one end of the sheet to her, he smiled, remembering how he and Remmie had ended up on the bed in the first place.

“What was that smile for?” Jessi asked him as she caught the edge of the material.

“That’s how Julian and I ended up on the bed.  I wasn’t ready for a tug and he lost his balance and we ended up in the mess you walked into.” They both tucked their corners in as they talked and then they finished with the top sheet and a blanket. 

Soon they were sitting in the living room, each with a glass of Kaniyagi mixed with soda. “Whoa, this stuff carries a punch. I like it.”

“When I first got here I drank way too much of it.  If it wasn’t for Remmi, I’d be the drunk vet that stumbled out in emergencies.”

“Tell me about him. He is more beautiful in person than his pictures.” Jess drained her glass and pulled a joint out of somewhere, lighting it and passing it to Aaron. “I may need to get to know that very handsome doctor as long as you don’t have a claim.”

Aaron had never been a big pot smoker. He usually didn’t like the loss of control he felt but he took in the smoke and held it until he felt his head start to drift away.  He listened to his sister go on about his best friend.  His best friend? Teddy was his best friend, wasn’t he? Could he have another best friend? Aaron opened his eyes and smiled over at Jessi who was taking another deep breath in.

“Hey, bro, I love seeing you smile.” She tapped out the roach and wrapped her arms around Aaron. “You know we were all worried about you.  I know Teddy was one of a kind but it has been four years. You can’t stop living because he did.” Jessi knew she would have never said that if she wasn’t stoned and Aaron would have stopped her if he wasn’t high as a kite. Aaron leaned his head against hers and started crying softly. “Ah, Aaron, I didn’t mean to make you sad.”

“I’m not sad.  In fact, I am having a great time here in Africa. I’m just… He doesn’t come to me at night anymore. I mean, I’m sleeping all night but when I wake up … I don’t want him to think I have forgotten him.”

“Teddy would be telling you he was well loved but now it is time for you to move on and find someone new to share what you have to offer. I would say go out there and play but I know that isn’t you.  Hell, it is my goal to meet as many fascinating people as I can and if we end up in bed, let’s just say I’m not sleeping alone too often.” Aaron opened his mouth but she held up her hand, “Don’t ask. Yes, I am always careful with the sex and where I have it.”

“You better.”  Jessi yawned and he could tell she was fighting to keep her eyes open. “Time for you to get some sleep.  Your body probably doesn’t even know what time zone it is in.”

“It doesn’t matter what time it is.  I’m with my brother.”

Aaron stood and pulled Jessi up to her feet. “Take the bed.  I’m going to sleep on the sofa. Sleep as long as you like. If I happen to be gone, check next door.  I’ll either be there or Remmie will know where I am.”

“Jessi is really stunning,” Julian said as he handed the coffee to Aaron and sat down next to him on the front porch steps.

“Don’t get any ideas.  Even though I know sex is her favorite pastime, I couldn’t be your friend anymore if you did.”

“I can understand that.” Without thinking about it, Remmie reached up and brushed his fingers through Aaron’s hair, helping it lay flat.

“I know. I haven’t combed my hair.  I didn’t want to wake Jess up by going into the bathroom.” Without saying anything more, Julian reached over again and brushed his fingers through the other side of Aaron’s hair. Aaron tilted his head and smiled at him and after their eyes locked for a moment, they both brought their coffee to their lips and took a sip.

Jessi stood in the door and watched the interaction. She wondered if Aaron knew Julian was in love with him.  Last night she had thought about trying to hook up with this tall, beautiful man but now she knew his heart was already taken.  She may enjoy her sex life but she did her best not to impact someone’s heart.  She hoped Aaron’s heart had healed enough to accept someone new. She had become fond of Remmie through their texts and calls.  He would fit into the Taylor-Kinney very well. “You got another mug of that stuff? I don’t see any over here.”

Remmie stood and gave her a quick hug and light kiss on her cheek. “Good morning, lovely. Let me get you a cup.”

Aaron stood and gave his sister a hug. “Did you sleep well?”

“I did. Once I hit the bed I was out and I just woke up a few minutes ago. By the way, does Remmie always smell that good in the morning.”

“He does,” Aaron didn’t realize he had smiled when he had said it but Jess noticed it.

“So what are we doing today?” Jess asked as Remmie handed her the fresh brew.

“Julian told me about a place about an hour away that will probably have some herds of animals.”

“A safari? Give me time to drink this and then a second while I dress.”

“You guys can have the range rover. I don’t need it.”

“Aren’t you coming with us?” Jessi and Aaron said simultaneously.

“I just figured the two of you would like time alone.  I didn’t want to impose myself.”

"You are coming with us,” Jessi replied immediately.

Remmie looked at Aaron, waiting for his response. "You are always welcome, Julian.”

“Ok, I do need to run out to a patient but I should be back in a half hour, an hour at the most.  Does that work?”

“That is perfect. It will give me enough time for a shower.” With that Jessi strode into Remmie’s place to fill her mug. 

It couldn’t have been a more perfect day.  The three companions spent the day traveling throughTanzania's Rubondo Island National Park. Because they hadn’t planned ahead at first they thought they would be limited to an observation area but after Jessi flirted with one of the guides who was taking a group out a little later, they were allowed to join the group. Jessi promised to share her photographs with the safari company when they returned.

By the end of the day they were all tired and energized at the same time. The whole way back they talked about all the animals they had seen. Somehow they managed to see all of the big five; lion, rhino, leopard, buffalo, and elephant. They saw several other herds of gazelle and so many different species of animals they couldn’t name them.

Both Aaron and Julian were quiet the last half hour as Jessi continued to chatter as she looked at the photos she had taken. Aaron’s head bobbed a couple times while Julian focused on getting them home.

As the village came into view, Aaron woke as Jessi said, “What are we doing tomorrow? I don’t know how we could beat today!”

Julian glanced at Aaron who met his eyes and they both rolled them.  “Jess, how do you always have so much energy? All I can do is think about sleeping until noon.”

“I don’t have time to waste.  I don’t have that long here and my publisher could call me out any time.”

“Well, let’s plan locally tomorrow,” Remmie suggested. “There is a lot to see locally.”

“Ok, that’s fine. Do you guys have food at your places? I’m starving.”

“Luckily there is goat stew I got this morning on my visit before we left.  In half an hour it should be steaming hot,” Remmie said.

“I will mix up some flat bread to eat with it.  I can get that done in 30 minutes,” Aaron added.

“You know what? You two make a great team.” Jessi said just as the Range Rover pulled up in front of their places.

While the men assembled dinner, Jessi took a shower and when she returned, Aaron had put his bread in the oven and went to rinse off himself leaving Jessi with Remmie.

“Have you told him you love him?” she asked.

Julian looked at her. He hesitated for a moment and then said, “He isn’t ready for that. He has only lightened up since our trip to that cottage. I think it was the brownies that got him to loosen up enough for him to tell me all about Teddy. I encourage him to talk about their life together.  I know he won’t forget about him. He shouldn’t but I hope he realizes he can love again.”

Jessi wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him. It was more than a simple kiss but she soon stepped back. “Sorry, but I have wanted to kiss you since I got here. I know your heart is taken and I hope, for both of you, Aaron realizes what he has.”

The next 10 days Jessi soaked in all of Tanzania that she could. She went along on visits with Aaron and saw how he worked.  She had seen him with the animals on the ranch but here, it wasn’t only the animals he calmed and ministered to.  His interaction with the people made her prouder of her brother than she had ever been. Sometimes he couldn’t even speak their language but somehow he communicated his true concern and kindness. He was an amazing vet. He was just an amazing human.

Now Jessi’s visit was almost done. Wednesday evening Jessi said, “So, guys, I talked to my friend that owns that cabin we were supposed to use and it is free this weekend.  I thought maybe we could all go up and the two of you could drop me off in the city so I can catch my flight on Monday.”

“If you have to leave, that sounds like a great send off,” Remmie said as they ate dinner on the front porch. “However, I can’t leave this weekend.  I have a patient that I expect will deliver in the next few days and she has had trouble in the past so I will just say goodbye to you on Thursday and, Aaron, you can pick up our supplies we need at the Institute before coming back on Monday.”

“I guess it is just the two of us, little sis.”

Friday morning Aaron loaded the food baskets into the back of the Range Rover while Jessi put her bags in the back. They also loaded a box that Aaron would send to their dads after he dropped her off at the airport.  They had both picked up some things they thought they would like.  It would probably get there before Christmas but they didn’t care.

The trip took longer than the last time Aaron had gone there.  Jessi kept stopping him so she could take more pictures.  She had already sold several of the pictures she had taken on safari and the views on the way to the lake were spectacular. 

Once they arrived at the cabin, Jessi was heading down the steps toward the lake before Aaron had the groceries put away. “Jess, you can’t go down there! There are crocs everywhere.”

“You don’t think I’m going to let a chance to photograph them slip by, do you?” She looked at him like she had so many times in their lives.  She was always the brave one and he was always the cautious one.

“Fine, but at least wait until I can be a lookout for you.” 

As she waited she said, “You know, bro, I’m not sure I would still be on this planet if it wasn’t for you. I know more than once you got me out of a close call with the bison.”

“I think you would have somehow charmed them into complacency,” he said as he walked over and draped an arm around her shoulders. “I wish Gus could have come to visit. I miss him.”

“I do, too, but he and Fi are busy with their own family now.  Fi is too pregnant to fly and of course Gus isn’t going to take a chance he would miss the birth. Are you ready to check out the crocodiles?”

Aaron was fascinated watching the crocodiles as Jessi took hundreds of pictures, first of Aaron’s new intrigue and then of other scenery and nature that surrounded them.  They found a safe perch, first near the water line but then on the deck. When the light was gone, they heated up some leftover stew Aaron had brought along.  After sharing a brownie from the freezer, they went to bed.

Saturday and Sunday they went out exploring. They had researched a couple small villages in the area and each day they went to visit one of them. They picked up a few trinkets but mainly Jessi took pictures. She loved seeing the local way of dress and the day to day interactions among the residents. The second day she picked up on some similarities but she also noticed the differences between the two communities.

“Let’s go back to the cabin, Aaron.  I have taken enough pictures and,” she took Aaron’s arm and laid her head on his shoulder, “it just hit me that in less than 24 hours I will be on my way to another continent and I don’t know when I will see you again.”

Aaron didn’t say anything but put his hand over hers on his arm and moved in the direction of the car.

 Later that evening they stood side by side in the kitchen. They were both deep in thought.  Jessi chopped vegetables for a salad while Aaron put together a sauce for pasta and prepped some steaks. Once the food was ready they sat down to eat their meal.

They talked until late in the night as they continued drinking wine and then got out the brownies from the freezer. At some point they called their dads who were out on the ranch watching a herd of bison be culled. “What have the two of you been taking and how much of it have you had?”

“Awe, Daddy B, it is just high quality weed and good wine.”

“Well, little girl, I am sure you know it is much better to fly without a hangover.”

“Yes, Daddy. You and Daddy J. need to start planning a trip over here. I’ll be stopping by Colorado after my next assignment. It will probably be around Christmas.  I think you should come here right after the holidays.”

“Dads, I would love that.  You will love it here.  You’ll love Remmie.” Aaron's words trailed off, his mind lost in thought.

“Little girl, take care of your brother,” Justin said.

“I will, Daddy.  He is such a lightweight.” Jessi looked over at Aaron who was now leaning back on a chair with his eyes firmly closed. “How much do you know about Remmie?”

“We know he has been good for your brother.”

“He’s in love with him and I think Aaron loves him, too, but he isn’t quite ready for that.”

“Is he worthy of Aaron?” Brian asked.

“That isn’t the way to ask, Brian! What he means is, would he give Aaron what he needs?”      

“Oh, yes, Dads.  Julian is wonderful and he is all that Aaron could ask for.”

“Tell your brother we love you both,” Brian and Justin said.

They finished the call and Jessi helped Aaron to bed.

The next morning, Aaron and Jessi loaded the vehicle and headed to the city.  As Aaron pulled over to the curb, he moved around to the passenger side and got Jessi’s bag for her. As she hugged him tightly for several moments she spoke to him softly, “Aaron, it’s time to let love in. Julian loves you. Don’t waste any more time.” She stepped back and took her bags from Aaron.  “I love you, Aaron.  Bring that man to visit me in Asia sometime.”

“I love you, too, Jessi. Remember, Julian and I are just friends.”

“Teddy started as a friend, too. I’ll see both of you in Asia.” She turned and ran into the terminal as her flight was being announced.

As Aaron pulled out into traffic he thought about Jessi’s words. She was right.  He and Teddy had been friends long before they were lovers. If it was meant to be with Julian, it would take time, a lot of time.


Chapter 5 by Simply written

Chapter 5

Julian Remmington paced on the porch, in front of the duplex.  He expected Aaron to get home by late afternoon, but as it approached 10:00 pm, he still hadn’t arrived.  He had tried to call and text him but it was one of the days with no reception.  He had managed to get in touch with the agency and found out that Aaron had picked up the supplies at the time expected and said he was heading back home from there.  He was now five hours later than he should be. He felt so helpless. If anything happened to him…

Julian strained to see in the direction Aaron was coming from, willing himself to see lights. When his eyes were tired from the strain he closed his eyes, and though he wasn’t a religious person, he prayed to whatever higher beings there were. As he leaned against the railing, eyes closed, he thought he was hearing a swarm of insects but as it got louder he realized it was an engine. His eyes popped open and, to his relief, he saw headlights. He left the porch and started a slow jog toward the clinic but as the vehicle drew near he soon was sprinting to get to the building at the same time.

“Hey, Remmie, I didn’t expect you to meet me here. I thought you would be about ready for bed.”

Remmie started at his feet and looked slowly up Aaron’s body and when he locked his eyes on Aaron’s he threw his arms around his neck, and sobbed. Aaron was a little confused as to what was going on but he put his arms around his friend and held him close.  

When Remmie started pulling himself together, Aaron leaned back a bit, and asked, “Julian, did something happen? What is it?” He brushed away Remmie’s tears.

“Where the HELL have you been?” Julian was angry now.

Aaron smiled softly and kissed his cheek, “You didn’t get my texts. I’m fine Julian. Open the garage door and let me put the rover away. Then I’ll tell you all about my day while I find something to eat.”

Julian wasn’t ready to let go of the physical contact with Aaron.  Without thinking twice, he pulled him close again and kissed him. It wasn’t a friendly kiss. For a moment, both men were lost in the heat of the moment as a fire was ignited in both of them but Aaron soon realized what he was doing and stepped back.

“Oh shit, Aaron, I’m sorry.  I didn’t…”

“Open the garage. I am starving.”

They had each grabbed one of Aaron’s bags and walked back to the duplex in silence until they got to their respective homes. “I have dinner ready.”

Aaron took his bag from Remmie and said, “Can you give me time for a quick shower?  I promise it will only be ten minutes and then I’ll tell you about my day.”

“Sure. I need to reheat the food anyway.”

Aaron was true to his word and was back at Remmie’s ten minutes later.  “Feel better?” Remmie asked.

“Ya, I do.  This smells great!” He said as he looked at the food on the table. As they sat down, they both could  feel some tension between them. “Remmie, I’m sorry you were so worried. I thought it was odd that I hadn't heard back from you.” He started to reach out to touch his arm, but he stopped himself. 

Remmie noticed Aaron’s retraction and said, “I’m sorry I ambushed you out there. I shouldn’t have. Now tell me about your day and why you took ten years off my life.”

“It started after I picked up our supplies.  I was about half an hour out of the city when I got a flat tire. I changed it but since I was still so close to the city, I thought I should get the tire repaired. Of course that took a couple hours. Then I had barely got past the point of the flat and, just off the road I saw a flock of sheep and one of them was laying down.  I stopped and investigated.  The animal had been attacked by something. I couldn’t save him. I waved down a local who brought the owner over. I put the poor animal out of his misery and then fixed up a couple with minor injuries.”  Aaron stopped talking to eat some of his dinner and drink some wine.

“Wow, you really did have a day,” Julian commented, starting to relax from all the tension of the last few hours.

Aaron swallowed the food that was in his mouth. “Oh, it wasn’t over yet. I got back on the road, and by now the sun was getting low. I expected to be home about 8:00 but then I drove about half an hour, and now it was nearly dark. I came around a curve and nearly ran into a herd of cattle.”

“Let me guess, you got out to help get them off the road?” By now Remmie had finished eating and leaned back in his chair, refilled his wine glass, and waited for Aaron to continue.

“It wasn’t like I could get around them.” He finished the food on his plate and held up his glass for Julian to fill it. “Can we move to the sofa?”

They sat next to each other.  There was a little space between them but not more than a few inches. “Now tell me about the weekend with Jess.”

“We had a great time. You know she has a crush on you but, as you are well aware, there is no settling her down. Someday she will make someone a great partner.” Aaron dropped his head on Julian’s shoulder. 

“You’re right there.” He hesitated but then continued, “She is a beautiful person, inside and out, but I am not interested. I have my eye on someone of my own.” He took Aaron’s hand. “Jessi told me I needed to be direct.”

“Oh, she was direct with me, too.” Aaron shifted a bit uncomfortably. “It isn’t you, Julian.  I just don’t know if I can give you what I want.”

“Aaron, I promise I won’t push you. You are in charge of what happens but I want you to know,” he leaned closer and kissed him. It was gentle and probing and then he pulled away as he put an arm around him, “I am going to keep reminding you I think we belong together.”

“Ok, ok. Anyone who worries as much about me as you do, deserves …” Aaron stood but stopped, turned to Julian, and kissed him. “And now I need to get some sleep.”

Julian watched him walk out, moved to the door, and locked it before turning off the lights and doing a dance all the way to the bedroom.

The everyday routine for Aaron and Julian remained the same but in the evening, when they were home the relationship had changed.  Julian didn’t shy away from giving Aaron a glancing touch or a kiss on the top of his head. The conversations became more intimate and there was one evening when as they sat on the sofa things went much further than before and as Julian slowly unzipped Aaron’s fly, Aaron panicked.  He moved off the sofa and said, “Julian, no, I’m so sorry.  I really care about you and I know you feel the same but...”

“No, Aaron.  I am totally in love with you.” He stood and moved to Aaron’s side. “I have never felt this way about another human and I will wait as long as it takes.” Julian put a hand on both cheeks and barely touched his mouth with his lips. “If you loved Teddy as much as I love you, Ican understand how you feel.” With that said he turned and walked out the door.

Aaron stood in the middle of his living room for several moments. He wasn’t sure why he had stopped Julian. Was he scared of the physical contact since it had been so long and, face it, Teddy was the only person he had ever been with or was he worried about his heart? 

Julian arrived in the morning with Aaron’s cup of coffee. “What do you have on your schedule today?” he asked Aaron as he handed him the mug. 

“I’m actually planning on being in the office most of the day.”

“That’s great.  I need to go out to that little settlement in the northwest corner of our area. I can never remember how to pronounce it. You will have to handle the humans that walk in today. You know the drill.”

“I do.  I will check any bumps or bruises.  I can do stitches if needed. You are better at those than I am.  I guess I don’t worry about the sutures on a cow but a human…”

“Aaron, you do fine and you know the people around here are not vain when it comes to that.”

“Are you sure you don’t want me to go along with you? I don’t like that area.  You came with me when I had to go there.”

“They would have been upset if their prize goat died. I am just giving the kids shots.  I don’t see any records of them ever getting the basic shots and this is the time of year when many of them get cuts so I want them to at least have the tetanus shot. I think I have enough of the vaccine to give them the MMR as well.”

“When are you planning to get back?”

“I am hoping to be home between 3:00 and 4:00 but it could be after 5:00.  It depends on the roads up there.  They tend to wash out and they have had heavy rain.” He took Aaron’s empty hand and brought it to his lips, kissing it before dropping it again. “I like that you worry about me.” Both men had decided, for their own safety, they would not show physical affection in public.  Being gay was still frowned on in many parts of Africa and even illegal in many cases.

Aaron smirked and said, “I don’t want to have to deliver any more babies for you.”

“Such concern.” Remmie acted offended but then smiled.  “I need to get going.”

“I’ll have dinner ready for you when you get home.” Aaron said as Remmie began to move away. Aaron took his hand to stop him. Looking directly into his handsome face, he said, “Be careful and let me know when you’re on your way home if you have service. I do worry.”

Both men felt drawn to each other but, instead, Remmie put his hand to his own mouth then touched Aaron’s lips before turning and moving away at a jog.

Aaron kept busy in the clinic.  He took care of both animal patients and put a couple stitches in a young man’s leg as well as processed some lab work from a couple animals he had seen the day before.  As he sat down for a bite to eat around 1:00 p.m. he saw a message from Julian. It had been sent around 11:00, letting Aaron know that he had arrived safely.  Aaron saw a couple more patients and finished his lab tests before closing up for the day. He looked at his phone hoping Julian had left a message or texted. He realized he just wanted to hear Remmie’s voice.  Aaron really missed him.

As he walked home he remembered having that same feeling about Teddy. Just hearing his voice had always made him feel like everything in the world was alright. Maybe it was time he admitted to himself that no one could replace Teddy but he felt ready to allow Remmie into his life for what was ahead.

Aaron arrived at the duplex and started preparing dinner. Every few minutes he glanced at his phone to see if he had missed an incoming message.  He also sent one out hoping Remmie would respond but the phone remained silent. 

When it was 5:00 and he still hadn’t heard anything, Aaron walked down to the mayor’s house and asked if he had heard anything.  He knew if anything was going on in the region, the mayor would know.

The older man had heard nothing about the doctor but he did know that there was a storm heading this way and it would have hit the area Remmie was working in some time ago. “The doctor is wise.  He would know to stay where he was.”

“Is there a way to get in touch with the settlement out there and check on him?” Aaron knew most of the villages had a central phone located at one of the elder’s homes.

“We can try,” the mayor’s wife said as she walked into the room. 

It took fifteen minutes to get a call through and when someone picked up, the line was cutting in and out so badly they could barely track the conversation. Aaron heard the words storm and bad.

“Doctor Remmington? Is he there?” Aaron asked for a third time.

Just before the line went totally dead the voice on the other end said, “Dr…..left….orm.”

“Do you think he meant that Remmie left before the storm? After the storm?” Aaron asked the mayor and his wife.

The mayor said he would go check with a couple other men in the village to see if any of them had been out that direction. The storm was now rolling into town so many of the men had just gotten back.

The mayor’s wife walked over to Aaron and placed a hand on his shoulder. “You do not let your true feelings show but I see.  I know you love the doctor. You love him like I love the mayor. It makes no difference to me who you love but you are wise to keep your secret.”

Aaron was surprised by her words. “Thank you. He is a very special man and a great doctor.”

“And you need to go look for him?” she asked in a cross between a question and a statement.

Aaron couldn’t find words but he nodded. 

The mayor returned with news that there were a couple breaches of the road along the way to the northwest region. “Dr. Aaron, you just go sleep. In the morning, the sun will be up and we will find the doctor.  He will just be along the road waiting.”

“Give him the keys to your truck,” the mayor’s wife told her husband.

“Woman, didn’t you hear what I just said? Don’t you hear that rain?”

“Aaron is not going to wait until the morning.  Give him your keys or go out with him.”

This time the mayor looked at Aaron with a concerned look on his face. “I will go with you if you want but if you know the way…” he extended his keys to Aaron.

“I know the way.  I was up there last week.  Thank you, sir.” He said this as he reached for the keys.  He hadn’t noticed the woman had walked out of the room.  She returned with a bag.

“Take this.  There is some food, water, and blankets. In case you need to stay the night out there.”

Aaron thanked them both and was soon on the road moving north.

The rain was pelting the windshield far faster than the wipers could keep it cleared. Travel was slow on the messy roads and at times there were strong gusts of wind that made the vehicle rock. Aaron kept softly praying to whatever higher being was listening. He also kept trying to feel Julian’s presence.  He could always feel Teddy, and the moment he passed, Aaron felt his spirit depart.  Julian had to be alive.

When he wasn’t reaching out in prayer, he spoke to himself, trying to convince himself that Julian was just hunkered down or stuck somewhere, waiting for the weather to clear and the weather was calming down. Now that the rain was stopping, Aaron’s phone started to pick up a signal. It was still spotty but when he heard the ping of a message coming in, he pulled over and picked up the phone.

Aaron had a voice message from Julian. He immediately played the message.  He noticed the message had been sent more than four hours ago. The message cut in and out just like the earlier phone call he had at the mayor’s house. Julian’s voice filled the darkness of the vehicle. “Aaron…accident…road wash…sorry…” and the message ended.

Aaron played it a couple times.  Remmie had been in an accident. Oh, shit! How bad was the accident? Was he injured? Where was Remmie? The message had been left three hours ago. Why hadn’t Remmie called again.  Oh, god, he was dead!

“Aaron, stop freaking out. This isn’t going to help your Julian.” Aaron heard Teddy’s voice so clearly he spun around in his seat to look behind himself. He was alone. As he turned back to face the windshield, the voice continued inside his head. “Aary, I know you loved me. You are the best boy and now a man I ever met. You deserve a man like him. Julian makes you happy. Now go find him.”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    

Aaron responded out loud, “Oh, Teddy, I will never forget you. Do you know where he is? Please tell me he is alive.” He put the car in gear and began to move forward. And one more time Teddy  spoke to him again.

Aaron could feel his presence. “Follow your heart. I know you will always keep me there. I’ll guide you.”

“You will always have a home there,” Aaron said as he moved forward on auto pilot.

The road continued to be dangerous. As he moved slowly down the muddy path, time seemed to stop and yet Aaron knew how long ago Julian had called about having an accident. When Aaron got to a fork in the road, instinctively he turned down the less developed road.  He wasn't sure why but he wasn’t going to question Teddy. 

No more messages came through but, Aaron’s phone from time to time would vibrate or ping as if a message had come but there was no message.  When his phone started to beep constantly, Aaron stopped and looked around. He hadn’t noticed the tire tracks that led away from the road and he knew this is where he had to go. 

Slowly, Aaron moved down the path. “Shit I can’t see a thing.” He got out of the ranger grabbing an old cloth that was laying in the back.  He moved to the grill and, as he had expected, the lights were caked in mud.  He did his best to wipe them off and then turned to see what the beams revealed.

To his surprise, ten feet ahead of where he stood, the path dropped out of view.  As he walked a few feet ahead he realized the road didn’t just dip down but instead there was a ten foot drop. He could not see anything down there so he got back in the truck and crept a little closer to the edge. As he opened the door he noticed a lantern behind his seat so he grabbed it and walked toward the ridge. This time, with the help of the headlights and the lantern he saw the beam reflect back.

“Remmie! Are you down there?” He was already carefully finding the safest path downward. He listened, hoping a voice would reach his ears but instead of words there was a short beep of the horn. Aaron wanted to run but the ground under his feet started slipping so he slowed down knowing he couldn’t help if he was injured. “I’m coming, Julian. Hold on.”

When he got on more solid ground, he was close enough to see their Range Rover and the heap of metal it now was. He ran the last few yards and, using his lantern to see, he looked into the interior of the wreck. He wasn’t sure if he was more relieved or scared when he didn’t see Remmie inside. “Julian, where are you?” he called. 

Trying to be completely silent, he listened. From somewhere on the other side of the twisted wreckage, he heard a soft tap, tap, tap. He rushed around the side and slid in the mud before finding himself face to face with Julian Remmington. 

Julian’s lips were moving but no sound was coming out. “I can’t hear you, Julian.” Aaron moved closer. “Where are you hurt? I need to assess you.”

With Aaron’s ear right by Julian’s mouth he could hear what Julian was saying. “Hit my throat on the steering wheel. Bruised. Concussion. Shoulder broke.” A shiver ran through him. 

“You’re in shock.” Aaron looked at Remmie’s legs.  “Are your legs Ok? Can you walk? No, that isn’t going to work.” He looked up at the headlights. “I’ll be right back. I have supplies in the truck.”

With his good arm he reached out and grabbed Aaron’s hand. He pulled him close again. “I knew you would come for me.”

Aaron leaned over and kissed him. “You scared the hell out of me.” He kissed him again and then moved to get supplies.

Twenty minutes later, Aaron had pulled the back seat out of the Range Rover and now had Remmie sitting on it with a blanket wrapped around him and a flask of water in his hand.  Aaron was cleaning and bandaging his scrapes. Once he had taken care of that, with Julian’s direction, he immobilized the injured arm and shoulder. “Is that alright? Is it tight enough? Is it too tight?”

Julian didn’t try to talk but he nodded slightly and sipped on the water. Aaron sat down next to him with the bit of food the mayor’s wife had given him. “Are you hungry?” he pulled out a banana and after pulling the peel down he brought it to Julian’s lips and Julian took a bite. “You have to be hungry.”

Julian nodded and took another bite but then he gagged and the food came up again. He whispered, “Nauseous. Concussion.”  

Aaron had contacted the agency they worked for earlier. They would be sending a helicopter as soon as they could.  “Someone will be out here as soon as the sun is up.” Aaron wrapped his arms around Julian along with another blanket and Julian leaned against him. Aaron couldn’t stop himself from kissing his head every few minutes as Julian began to drift off. “Julian, you need to stay awake. You took a hard hit.”

“Aaron, I love you.”

“I love you, too, Julian.  I was so scared today. I’m sorry I couldn’t say it earlier.”

“Maybe I should have nearly died weeks ago.”

“Don’t say that.  I don’t know what I would have done if you had died.”

“Oh, Aaron, I shouldn’t have said that.  My brain isn’t….please forgive me. I wasn’t trying to bring Teddy up.”

“Oh, Julian, I know that.”

“Tell me you love me again,” Julian said.

“Julian Remmington, I love you. And when you’re feeling better I have a story to tell you about Teddy. Now, shut up and close your eyes.  If you doze now, it shouldn't hurt.  The copter should be here within the hour.”

An hour later, Aaron and Julian were in the air. He had spoken to the mayor and he was assured someone would come and pick up the mayor’s vehicle. It wouldn’t have mattered.  There was no way Aaron was leaving Julian’s side. Although Julian was not continuous, Aaron wouldn’t let go of his hand and when they landed, Aaron was the one passing on Julian’s condition to the doctor who met them but when Julian went back for tests Aaron was sent to the waiting room. 

Aaron found a sofa in a quiet corner. His exhaustion caught up with him, and he slept.

Chapter 6 by Simply written

Chapter 6 

“Aaron?”  A female voice reached Aaron’s ears.

Aaron thought he was dreaming but when he felt a hand on his arm, he jumped to a sitting position and said, “Julian!”

“Julian is fine, Aaron. I just talked to the nurse.” Jessa, his first friend in the country, sat next to him and hugged him.

“Oh, Jessa, thanks for coming. How did you know I was here?”

“The whole compound has been up, waiting to hear about the two of you. As soon as I got word you had landed here, I took a car and drove over. How is Julian doing? It sounded pretty serious.”

“I’m most worried about his head.  He definitely has a concussion and he is sure his clavicle is broken. He also was having trouble talking because he hit his throat on the steering wheel.” Aaron felt he had to stand. He was having difficulty focusing on anything. “You talked to the nurse.  Where is Julian? Are they still running tests? What time is it?”

Jessa stood and put an arm around his shoulders, “Take a couple of deep breaths. Do you want something to calm your nerves?”

Aaron stopped and took a couple slow breaths. “I’m sorry. I know I am being erratic.”

“You are just sleep deprived and worried.  The nurse said Julian was done with tests and is sleeping soundly right now.  In about half an hour the results will be ready and then they will decide what the next step is.” She guided him back to the sofa to sit down.  “Julian will probably need to stay here for a few days.”

“Once I know he is Ok, I will need to go back to the village.”

“You will stay at the compound for a couple days.  Remember I’m the psychologist.  You need some time to decompress.  You have been through a stressful situation, too. I told them to get the visiter’s quarters ready.  There happen to be two open next to each other.”

“We only need one, Jessa.  I’m not letting him stay alone.”

“Aaron, these are only single bedroom apartments, remember.”

Aaron looked at her and said, “One bed is enough.”

“But…Oooh…” she smiled, “I’m happy for you.  You’ve addressed your life with Teddy?” Aaron looked at her quizzically. “I’m sorry.  It’s probably none of my business but I am a therapist.  I can’t help myself.”

“I’m working through that. When my sister was here we had some good conversations and Teddy would want me to move on.”

“Yes, he would. Now you need something to eat. Close your eyes for a few minutes while I find a sandwich for you and some coffee, or whatever I can find for you to eat in this place.”

By the time he could go back to Julian, Aaron had eaten and, thanks to a kind orderly, had taken a quick shower and put on some clean scrubs that had been located for him. As the nurse walked him back to Julian’s room, she informed him that Mr. Remington would be released into his care. “You are a doctor?” the nurse asked.

“Yes but I’m a vet, not a medical doctor.”

“Well, we have been assured by the patient that you will be able to assist him with his care.”

“I will gladly take on that responsibility.” Aaron stopped next to the nurse who then pointed at a door. Aaron thanked her and pushed open the door to Remmie.  He wanted to go and kiss him but they were in a public hospital. Instead he walked to the side of the bed where he was sitting on the edge, wearing scrubs similar to his own attire. Aaron took Julian’s hand and squeezed it gently but then let it go.

“Julian, how are you feeling? How’s your shoulder? Do you have a headache?”

“They have me patched together. Are we going back to the village? The doctor said I could.”

“Remmie, they have you on pain meds, right?”

“I’m rambling aren’t I?” Remmie smiled at Aaron’s kind face.

Aaron placed his hand on Julian’s good shoulder, “Just slow down and let me take care of you.  We are staying at the agency compound tonight and then we can decide tomorrow whether you are up to the trip back.”

“Julian, you were right about your friend. He obviously has a good head on his shoulders.” A young doctor stood in the doorway. He introduced himself to Aaron and shook his hand. “He definitely needs to stay in the city today.  If the pain stays under control tonight, you can make the drive back tomorrow.”

“Thanks, doctor.  Do I need to pick up medication or anything?” Aaron asked.

“Stop at the front desk and they will have everything written out for you.  Of course our patient should know what to do and not do but I have it written up for you because doctors are bad at following directions.”

With Jessa’s assistance, Aaron helped get Remmie to the apartment that had been prepared for them.  As soon as she made sure they had everything they needed she said goodnight and left the men alone.  She could tell that both men were tired and she had a feeling that the two of them needed time together. Although she was curious, she didn’t ask questions on the trip from the hospital.  She hoped they would trust her with the whole story sometime but tonight was not the time.

Once they were alone, Aaron sat next to Julian and, very gently, put an arm around Julian’s shoulders and when Julian looked at him, Aaron kissed him.  It was so soft Julian wondered if their lips were actually making contact but as a current of electricity sizzled between them, he no longer doubted the contact.

When Aaron pulled back, he said, “I’m sorry.  I shouldn’t have done that.  You need food and then you need to go to bed.”

“Are you coming to bed with me?” Julian’s voice was still raspy but he had a glint in his eye.

“Ah, Julian, I will be sharing your bed but sleep is the only thing that is going on tonight. You are too injured to think about that for several days and tonight I think we are both too tired to do anything but sleep.” Aaron kissed Julian once more before he stood up and said, “Let me go see what they have for us for dinner.” 

Aaron found some ground meat made into burgers, along with a rice dish which was filled with vegetables. Fifteen minutes later, when Aaron had the food on the table he found Julian asleep where he was sitting. He bent and kissed Julian’s forehead. “Julian, dinner is ready.”

“It smells good,” he said softly. “Help me up?”

After supporting Julian as he got up, Aaron put his arm around Julian’s waist and guided him to the table. There was little conversation as they ate.  Aaron encouraged Julian to eat a little more but, as Julian’s eyes began to flutter shut, Aaron stood and helped Julian stand up and then walked him to the bedroom. 

“I’m sorry,” Julian whispered. “You made dinner and I didn’t eat much.” 

Aaron helped him lie down and as he pulled off Remmie’s shoes, he said, “You need sleep as much as you need nutrition.” Next he tugged off the pants of the scrubs and finally he untied the top of the scrubs and gently slipped it off of his shoulders. When he saw Remmie cringe, he slowed the moments. “I’m sorry.  I’m trying not to hurt you.”

Remmie reached over and touched Aaron’s cheek. “The only way you could hurt me is to tell me you don’t love me.” 

Aaron tossed the shirt to the side and kissed him before saying, “I love you, Julian. That isn’t going to change. Now,” he tucked pillows around Remmie and, pulling a thin blanket up over him, he said, “I need to clean up the kitchen and then I will come join you.” Remmie coughed and Aaron said, “I’ll bring you some water, too.”

Upon moving into the bedroom, Aaron wasn’t surprised to see Julian sleeping in the exact position he had been in when Aaron had left him. As promised he had brought a couple glasses of water with him and set them on the table next to his side of the bed. Aaron was fairly sure Julian would need a painkiller sometime in the middle of the night.

Aaron laid down next to Julian and soon gave into the exhaustion of the last 24 plus hours. As he drifted off his subconscious realized how much he had missed the feel of someone next to him.

Julian woke around 2:00 am. His head and shoulder had begun to throb but he could see Aaron was asleep and he didn’t want to wake him. He watched Aaron’s eyes fluttering and wondered if Aaron was dreaming about him, or were all his visions still about Teddy.

 Julian didn’t have to wonder for long.  He heard Aaron whisper the name ‘Teddy’ under his breath.  “It’s Ok, my love. As long as I have you in my life, whatever you have for me is enough.”

In his dream, Aaron and Teddy were at Spirit Pass Ranch.  They were having a picnic overlooking the herd of bison. Aaron thanked Teddy for helping him find Julian. “Teddy, I still love you. I will always love you.”

Teddy replied, “You loved me well, Aary. You gave me everything I could possibly have needed or wanted. But it is now time for me to leave you. I can rest now that I know you have found someone new to love. Build a life with Julian. He loves you as much as I do.”

“Teddy, I don’t want you to go.  I can’t imagine being without you.”

Teddy reached out and touched Aaron’s chest right where his heart is and said, “I know I will always have a small part of your heart but it is time for Julian to protect the rest of it.” Teddy’s voice and image faded away just as Aaron realized someone was actually touching his chest.

“Aaron, I hate to wake you but I could use some medication,” Julian said as he touched Aaron’s chest.

Aaron’s reflex was to put space between the hand and his chest but then he realized he didn’t want to and he didn’t need to. There was nothing wrong with him being in bed with Julian.  He smiled at Remmie, “Sure, let me get some for you. Close your eyes if you don’t want to see the bright light. He hesitated a moment and then turned on the bed lamp.  He got two of the pills out of the bottle and picked up one of the glasses of water. He walked around the bed and set the medication and the water down before helping Julian sit up a little bit. “Here you go,” Aaron said as he popped the pill into Julian’s mouth and then he brought the water glass up to his lips.

Since they were both awake Aaron helped him to the bathroom and then got him resettled before getting back into bed himself.

Julian watched Aaron get in bed next to him and before Aaron could lay down, Julian stretched his arm out so Aaron would move closer to him. Aaron laid his head on Julian’s arm and softly said, “Is the pill kicking in?”

“You are so gorgeous.”

Aaron smiled and said, “I guess it is.”

“Aaron, it is feeling better but that isn’t why I said you were gorgeous.  Are you alright? I put you through a lot.”

“You didn’t do anything on purpose. You were doing your job.” Aaron kissed Julian. “I’m so glad you are alright.”

“You didn’t answer my question, you know. How are you? You already lost Teddy and you had to wonder about me.”

“It’s over. We’re here together. You don’t need to worry about me.”

“You were talking to Teddy in your sleep.” Julian ran his fingers through Aaron’s hair, brushing it away from his face. “Did my accident stir up some memories?”

“Let’s sleep now and in the morning I have a story to tell you.” Aaron pulled the blanket up around Julian and his own shoulder before saying, “I love you, Julian.”

“I love you, too.” Julian’s voice was now drifting off and moments later Aaron heard the constant, deep breathing coming from beside him.

When Aaron got up he was surprised to see a note on the front door, facing inward so he could read it from the living room.  It said, ‘Hey, guys, hope you got some rest.  Step outside and you will find a basket with your breakfast waiting.’  Aaron opened the door and, instantly, smelled fresh bread and some kind of meat. Carrying the basket into the house, he could see several eggs in the bottom as well as the bread and a crock of the meat he smelled. 

As he removed the food from the basket he put the crock in a warm oven and took a pan out to make the eggs later. As he turned on the coffee pot he heard a groan from the bedroom. “I’m coming, Julian.  Don’t get up without my…” Aaron entered the bedroom and found Julian walking toward the bathroom. 

“I’m ok.  I’m not nearly as dizzy this morning.”

As Julian entered the bathroom Aaron asked, “Do you need help?”

“Do you want to hold it for me?” Julian winked at him. Aaron flushed at the thought of being intimate with him. Julian touched Aaron’s cheek.  “I’ll call if I need your help.  I think I might need help washing up later.”

“Call if you need me.  I’ll finish breakfast.”

Aaron was cracking the last egg into the frying pan when Julian came out.  Julian was wearing shorts and a thin film of sweat over his exposed chest. “Julian, do you have a fever?” Aaron asked with concern moving near him to check his forehead.

“No, love.  It took a lot of effort for me to get these shorts on.” He took Aaron’s hand in his good one. “I didn’t think sitting in my briefs would be a good idea.”

Aaron’s eyes drifted below Julian’s waist and it was obvious even Aaron’s gaze was having an effect on him. Aaron turned away and moved back to the stove.  “Have a seat.  Jessa dropped breakfast off for us.”

“I was wondering how you managed all this.  I didn’t think you got up at 5:00.”

“No, they are watching out for us.”

“Can we go home today?” Julian asked.

“Are you sure you are up to that? They have flown another doctor into our village that is taking care of things.”

“I want to go home.  If you are up to the drive. You can give me extra meds for the shoulder.  My head is much better which means I am healing.” Aaron had been loading Julian’s plate as he talked. Aaron was happy when Julian started eating right away. “Damn, I didn’t realize I was so hungry.  This is really good.”

Aaron took a bite of the sausage that had been in the crock.  “This is good. I’m not sure what it is but it has just the right amount of spice in it.” They both ate in relative silence until their plates were nearly cleared and Aaron filled their mugs again and buttered another slice of bread, handing it to Julian. 

Julian set the bread down and took Aaron’s hand.  “Tell me the story.”

Aaron told Julian about his journey to find him in the storm.  “Everytime I wasn’t sure which way to go, Teddy guided me.  At one point I heard him as if he was in the vehicle with me. He told me it was time for me to move on.”

“You saw him again last night, in your dreams.” Remmie said it with no judgment.

Teddy was saying goodbye. Aaron reached over and put his hand on top of Remmies, “Julian, he told me he knew how much I loved him but now it is time to love you.” Aaron moved toward Julian and kissed him. It started out slow and sweet but as it continued, the kiss deepened when Aaron put a hand on either side of Julian’s head. After another moment, Julian pulled away.

“Damn! I want so much more but today…I just can’t love you the way I want to and I’m not going to do a half ass job. When it is right, I want that whole gorgeous ass.”

“I shouldn’t have done that.  Obviously, you aren’t up to more today.

“Oh, trust me, the getting up part wasn’t a problem. Now I just need to figure out how to get rid of it.”

“I could help you…” Aaron started reaching for Julian’s shorts.

“No, Aaron.” He took both his hands.  “As much as I would enjoy that, I don’t think this head,” he pointed to one of the bruises on his head, “is quite ready for that.”

“Of course, I should have thought of that. Should I let Jessa know we are staying another day?”

“No, Aaron. I want to go home.  I want to get back where we belong.”

“Ok, do you want me to help you wash up?”

Julian stood up slowly, “I’ll wash my face.  I’ll just get all dusty on the trip home.  Then maybe I could take a bath easier than a shower if you’ll help me get out when I’ve soaked for a while.”

Aaron slipped an arm around his waist and kissed him. “I think I can manage that. Too bad we aren’t at the ranch.  My dads have a tub that comfortably holds two.  One time when they were out of town and Teddy was visiting the ranch, we just had to see if it really was big enough to…” Aaron looked at Julian’s face.  “I’m sorry.  You don’t want to hear stories about Teddy and me.”

It was Julian’s turn to press his lips against Aaron’s. “Aaron, Teddy helped make you who you are. Without him in your life, we have no idea what you would have done with your life. And I think a trip to the ranch sounds wonderful!”

“I think that can be arranged.  When our year is up with this program  we could go back there.  I know Terry has been trying to slow down.  Remember I told you about our friend who is a doctor and flew to different clinics in Colorado?”

“I do remember but, I am not a pilot.”

“He doesn’t fly around as much anymore. The program is run differently but I am sure there would be something for you there and I can always find work on the ranch.”

“That sounds like something for us to talk about after making love. Damn, I can’t even think about being with you like that without getting a hardon.” Julian glanced down at his shorts and saw how his cock was straining against the material. “I’m going to go wash up,” he said and turned and walked into the bedroom.

Aaron watched him walk into the bathroom before picking up the plates on the table. As he washed and dried them he couldn’t stop smiling. He couldn’t remember the last time he felt like this.  He knew he was in love with Julian and he knew the feeling was mutual.

An hour later, Julian was sleeping in the back seat as Aaron drove away from the city. 

Chapter 7 by Simply written

Chapter 7 

By the time they arrived at their village, Julian was uncomfortable but he had made the trip without any other complications. Aaron made sure Julian was comfortable in a chair on the porch and then carrired in the few items they had collected the last couple of days, including Julian’s medication. 

Aaron stepped back out onto the porch. Julian sat with his eyes closed in the shade of the roof. Aaron restrained himself.  He wanted to kiss him so badly but he knew they would have to be extremely careful. He walked over and laid his hand on Julian’s shoulder. “Jules?”

Julian jumped a bit, “Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to fall asleep.”

“You need the rest.  If you are comfortable here, I am going to go check the clinic.  The substitute doctor will be there. I want to see if there are any emergencies.”

“I’ll be fine.  I can go into the house if I get too warm.”

“I shouldn’t be gone more than an hour.” Aaron ran his hand behind Julian’s neck as he said this and then, speaking very softly he said, “I love you.”

Julian responded, “I love you, too, Aaron. Don’t rush. I’ll be fine.”

Aaron went to the clinic and found out no four-legged patients had arrived while he was gone. Joe, the doctor who had been sent to fill in for Julian, assured Aaron that he had everything under control. ”I’ll stay here.  I’ll only be here a couple of weeks,” Dr. Joe said. “I’m comfortable handling an animal or two and I hear you have helped out with people.”

Aaron assured the doctor, “Yes, I’ve stitched up a leg or two.  Are you sure you want to stay here? You could use my place.  I will stay at Julian’s to keep an eye on him at night, for sure. And you have to eat. I am going to go make dinner.  You could come over.”

“That is very kind but I have a friend that lives very nearby and I will be eating with him most evenings I am here.” 

His eyes locked with Aaron and nothing more needed to be said. It was obvious their substitute was hooking up with someone in the area. “Oh, I didn’t know you had friends in the area,” Aaron commented, emphasizing the word friends. 

“I worked in this area a couple of years ago.  My friend and I have continued to stay in touch and get together when we can.” Joe seemed to be relieved that he had judged Aaron correctly.

“I am glad to hear you have been able to keep your friendship going.  Julian and I have gotten to be the best of friends, as well.  It is too bad that friends can’t be open about their relationship.” Aaron smiled at him.

“I couldn’t agree more but it has gotten somewhat better. As long as you aren’t blatant about it, most people will glare at you but they won’t do anything. Are the two of you going to stay after your first year is up?”

“We haven’t really talked about it but I don’t think we will.  We want to spend some time with our families and I have a sister who is in Asia.  We may look into working there for a while.” Aaron glanced at his watch. “Oh, I better get back to Julian.  Please feel free to stop by and I will be back tomorrow checking if I have any business.”

Aaron left the building and jogged home.  He found Julian sound asleep where he had left him. He reached out and gently tapped his shoulder. “Julian, let’s go inside.  It is too warm to be sitting out here this long.”

With Aaron’s help, Julian stood and walked to the door.  The moment they were in the cool, dark space of Julian’s place, he wrapped his good arm around Aaron and kissed him. “Aaron, how about helping me take a bath before you start dinner?  I think soaking in the tub for a little while is just what I need.”

“Oh sure, Julian. Let me start the water and then I’ll help you get undressed.” Aaron walked into the bathroom and turned the water on. As he tested the temperature of the stream, Aaron’s mind wandered back to Julian and his entire body flushed at the thought of seeing Julian naked.  The thought of running his hand down his…

“Aaron, is something wrong in there? I have gotten myself stuck.” Julian’s voice was a little muffled.

Aaron turned off the water and hurried out of the bathroom and found Julian sitting on the bed with his shirt unbuttoned but it was stuck on his bandaged shoulder. “If you would have waited I could have helped with this,” Aaron said as he carefully got the shirt free from the shoulder. Once the shirt was out of the way, Julian pulled Aaron close again and tilted his head up wanting Aaron to kiss him.  

When Aaron bent down to take him up on the offering, Julian’s arm came around Aaron’s waist and his hand slipped under the band of Aaron’s shorts. As his fingers brushed against Aaron’s ass, Aaron shuddered and stepped closer to Julian who had managed to stand up and was now pressing Aaron’s crotch against his own and there was no doubt of the need they both had. 

Aaron gave him a light push backward so Julian laid back on the bed. Now Aaron could tug off Julian’s shorts and then he reached for the briefs that had been under them. Aaron slowly pulled them downward and then let them fall to Julian’s ankles. Aaron dropped to his knees and reached for Julian’s erection but Julian stopped him.

“Aaron, please let me take a bath first. I feel like I haven’t had a chance to clean up since the accident. If you can help me get in the tub, I want to soak for a while.” Julian stood up and Aaron couldn’t take his eyes off Julian’s physique. He wanted him so badly but he could use a shower as well.

Once Julian was sitting in the warm water with a washcloth and some soap within his reach, Aaron moved quickly.  He went to his apartment and, after a quick shower, he looked at the clothes in his closet.  Most of the time both men wore a uniform of sorts but this late afternoon, Aaron slipped on a pale blue polo and a pair of his standard khaki shorts. He ran a comb through his hair and then headed toward the door.  It was time for him to get back to Julian. The water had to be getting cold.

Aaron tapped on the bathroom door.  “May I come in?”

“I was hoping you hadn’t left me in here to pickle.” Julian’s voice came through the door. 

Aaron entered the bathroom and Julian was sitting where he had left him. He had placed the washcloth over his cock but it did nothing to calm Aaron’s libido.  He grabbed another cloth and sat on the edge of the tub before dipping the cloth in the now lukewarm water before adding soap and he began to make slow circular motions on Julian’s broad back. 

“That feels so good. I think I got everything washed on my front half.”  Aaron didn’t respond.  He just focused on the washcloth and his hand which was slowly moving downward. Was he going to have sex with Julian? He had only ever been with Teddy. It had been over four years. Nerves started to come to the surface. Julian’s voice interrupted his thoughts. “Aaron, you are very quiet. Is something wrong?”

“No,” Aaron said, snapping out of his thoughts but kept moving his hand on his back. “I was just thinking, maybe we should wait.  I don’t want you to reinjure yourself. I mean it has only been a few days since your accident.”

“Aaron, look at me.” Julian reached for Aaron’s arm and tugged him so he could see Aaron’s face. He placed his hand on Aaron’s chin and pulled him closer, kissing him. “You will not hurt me.  I’ll let you know if something hurts. Now, what is really bothering you?”

“You have so much more experience than I do.  What if I do something wrong? Teddy hadn’t been with anyone else either so we…”

Julian’s hand moved down Aaron’s chest and as it neared Aaron’s crotch, Aaron forgot to breathe. Julian stopped, “Help me out of this tub. I am sure we have a few things to teach each other.”

Aaron helped Julian stand up and, after throwing a towel around Julian’s shoulders, Aaron took another towel and slowly began to dry Julian’s lower back. Then he started at Julian’s ankles and began moving upward, drying his legs off. He did the front and back on both legs up to the knees and then he worked his way up Julian’s thighs. As Aaron moved upward, Julian braced himself on the bathroom wall as Aaron moved up his legs. As he got to the inverted V below Julian’s ass, he reached between his thighs and brushed against Julian’s balls sending a shiver through them both.  

Aaron leaned forward and bravely ran his tongue between the mocha globes that were in front of him. Julian took in a sharp breath. “Oh, god,” Julian sighed the words out. “Stand up and take me to bed.”

Aaron stood and put an arm around Julian.  He tried not to stare at the penis Julian now had. He had loved Teddy’s cock. He always felt like they were made for each other.  They fit together perfectly.  Now seeing Julian’s erection, for a moment he panicked. He hadn’t been with anyone for so long. 

Julian dropped onto the bed and pulled Aaron close.  “Take off your shirt, please,” he asked Aaron as he began to tug at Aaron’s shorts. It wasn’t long before Aaron stood in front of Julian naked. Julian slowly reached out and ran a finger on the underside of Aaron’s erection. Aaron fought to keep control. He wasn’t sure if he was more worried about cumming immediately or about losing his erections because of nerves. “Come closer.  Let me taste you.” Julian’s arm came around Aaron’s waist guiding him closer in between his legs. Julian attempted to bend over but he cringed in pain. “Ok, so that’s not going to work.”

Aaron stepped to the side of the bed. “Lay down, Julian.” Aaron assisted him in getting on the bed further and helped place pillows so he was comfortable. “Are you comfortable?” Aaron asked as he got on the bed next to him.

“I’m sorry I am so useless. I should never have…”

“Julian, can you kiss me? That’s all I need.” Aaron leaned over him and Julian’s good arm pulled Aaron tightly against him. The two men kissed for several minutes, thoroughly exploring each other’s mouths. Eventually, Aaron began to explore Julian’s chest and then moved lower still.

“Aaron, can you straddle my head without pressing my shoulder?”

Aaron didn’t say anything but, after some careful movements, Aaron leaned over Julian’s body and as he lowered his mouth to Julian’s cock, he dropped his hips low. The moment their mouths made contact, they both lost themselves in the pleasure they were giving and receiving. It was as if they could read the other’s mind.  As they climaxed together, both men drank all that was offered.

When they had both calmed, Aaron stretched upward after being in that awkward position for some time. “Sorry, that can’t be a good view for you.” He was still straddling Julian’s face.

“Oh, darling, this may be the best view I have ever had.”

Aaron swiveled his hips so his now flaccid cock was swinging just out of the reach of Julian’s lips. Aaron heard Julian’s moan and laughed as he swung one of his legs over Julian so both of his legs were on the same side. He fluffed Julian’s pillow and then, after one more kiss, Aaron laid down next to him. They interlocked their fingers and for several minutes they laid on their backs lost in their thoughts.

Julian broke the silence by asking, “Aaron, are you alright?”

“I’m fine,” Aaron responded lightly.

“You don’t sound alright. That was the first time you had ever had another man’s cock in your mouth and the first time another man tasted you.” Aaron said nothing. Julian carefully rolled onto his side so he could look at Aaron. “Did I do something I shouldn’t have?”

Aaron reached over and ran his hand down Julian’s chest, stopping at the bottom of his sternum.  “You didn’t do anything wrong. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean for you to think that. I was just coming to terms in my own head.  Yes, I loved Teddy with every beat of my heart but I now know, although he will always be there, I can love you just as much as I loved him.” Aaron gently pushed Julian over so he was again lying down. “I love you, Julian, more than I ever thought I could.” Aaron’s lips brushed Julian’s once more.  “Now, we both need to get some sleep.”

“I love you, too, Aaron.  I have never felt like this before about anyone.” Julian drifted off as the words left his mouth.

Aaron lay next to Julian but couldn’t find sleep. When he had nights like this, he usually talked to Teddy and soon he would work through whatever was keeping him up.  Tonight, he wasn’t sure he could talk to him.  Teddy had told him over and over as he came closer and closer to death that he should find someone else and as he was looking for Julian after the storm, Teddy made it clear to him that he wanted him to move on. 

Getting up as carefully as he could, not wanting to disturb Julian, he slipped into a pair of shorts and walked into the main room, closing the door before moving into the kitchen and turning on the dim light over the sink. He turned the burner on below the kettle of water. As he waited for it to heat, he got out some tea and put it in the strainer that would let the leaves steep in the hot water.

Once he had his cup of tea he moved out onto the front porch and sat down on the stoop.  He spoke in a whisper and said, “Teddy, I hope you’re happy for me. He’s a good man, an amazing man.  He is kind and caring and he understands me almost as well as you do.” He used the present form of the word and then changed it. “As well as you did. I still miss you, Bear. I always will.”

Teddy’s voice filled his mind. The words were as clear as they would have been if Teddy were standing next to him, “I couldn’t be happier for you and you can still come to me if you need to talk to someone.  I will always be with you but I know you won’t need me as much and that is fine. Love him and let him love you for the rest of your time.”

Aaron realized he felt a hand on his shoulder and a finger under his chin. He then felt a coolness on his lips. Aaron closed his eyes and the feeling lingered for a few seconds. As Aaron opened his eyes, hoping to get one last glance of Teddy, he saw a misty figure step away from him and with a wave, Teddy was gone. And at that very moment, he felt a warm hand rest on his shoulder, exactly where Teddy had just rested his.

“I hope I didn’t wake you up. You were sleeping so soundly and I didn’t want to wake you with my tossing and turning.” Aaron lent a hand to  Julian as he sat down next to him.

“You look pretty peaceful now,” Julian said as he put his arm around him. “When I woke up to an empty bed I was worried you might have gone to sleep at your place.”

Aaron rested his head on Julian’s shoulder. “I can only hope that I never have to sleep alone again.”

“I like the way that sounds.” Julian kissed him. “I promise, very soon you and I will make love without any restrictions. Think you can sleep now?”

“I am sure I can.” Aaron stood and offered his hand to Julian, who rose. Together they went back to bed and, this time, Aaron was asleep before Julian.

Julian healed and their love continued to grow stronger. As Julian healed they continued to pleasure each other but they agreed that Julian had to heal before they did more than that. 

One day when Aaron was at the clinic with Joe, as the day was coming to an end, Aaron said, “I’m going to miss you, Joe. It has been great to have you here.”

“I’ve enjoyed it, too, but I am glad Julian doesn’t need me to help out any longer. I was just thinking, do you think you and Julian could use that lake house you mentioned for the weekend?”

“I’m not sure.  What are you thinking?” Aaron asked Dr. Joe.

“It is quiet around here.  Why don’t the two of you see if you can take a little break before you are both at it full-time? This might be your last chance to go for a long while. The rainy season will be here soon and, as you found out, the roads get bad quickly that time of the year.”

Aaron’s mind was already flying.  His mind went to the amazing deck and the chaise lounge out there.  “Oh, Joe, that would be amazing.  Let me check with my sister and see if it is available this weekend.  If it is, we will leave early in the morning and we will come back Monday. You can leave on Monday morning.  We will be back before the end of the day.”

“I can stay until you arrive.  I have decided I am leaving the institute and I will be staying in the area with my friend.”

“I’m happy for you, Joe.  And it will be nice to have another doctor in the area in case we get overwhelmed some time.”

“Go make your call.  I will put the rest of the tools in the sterilizer and then close up.  If the Rover is gone in the morning, I’ll know you are at the lake.”

“Thanks, Joe,” Aaron gave him a quick hug and then he was out the door. He took his phone out and texted Jessi.  She responded almost instantly.  She said she would get back to him soon. 

Aaron found Julian standing by the stove. “Hey, Aaron.  I didn’t expect you for a half hour or so.”Aaron walked over to him and gave him a long kiss as his hand wrapped around Julian and rested on his ass. Julian was so happy he could now put both of his arms around him. “I like when you come home early if this is how you greet me.”

Aaron’s phone pinged and he pulled away from Julian and grabbed for his phone. Aaron looked at the message.  “Yes!”

“Why do I think I am missing something?” Julian asked with a smile on his face.

“Tomorrow morning, you and I are going back to the lake house.  Joe said he will hang around until Monday so tomorrow morning we are leaving at sunrise. You and I will be at the lake for 48 hours and I hope by that time we will have made love in multiple locations.”

Julian smiled and crooked his finger for Aaron to come back to his side before stirring something on the stove. He then set down the spoon and again pulled Aaron close.  “I think I love Joe.” Julian let his mouth move along Aaron’s jaw and then moved to the soft spot just under Aaron’s ear that he knew would make Aaron shiver. Aaron wrapped his arms around Julian’s neck and redirected Julian’s lips to his own.

Eventually, Julian stepped back. “I don’t want dinner to burn.”

Aaron didn’t want the kiss to stop but smiled as Julian worked on their dinner. “I’ll start a load of wash. Do you care what clothes we take?”

Julian looked at Aaron and winked, “Do we need clothes?” 

“Well, I am hoping we don’t need much but I think we should have an extra pair of shorts at least,” Aaron said over his shoulder.

Julian and Aaron were on the road at 7:00 the next morning. Aaron drove since Julian’s range of motion was still limited in his shoulder.  They talked about a variety of topics along the way but after an hour, Julian dozed off and Aaron found himself getting nervous.  He wasn’t sure why.  It wasn’t the first time he was going to have sex and, although he had only been with Teddy, they had been very creative. They hadn’t locked themselves into specific roles. They just loved each other and let the spirit move them. They never argued over being top or bottom. As much as Julian and he talked about their past, they had never talked about their previous physical love lives. 

Aaron was so deep in thought he hadn’t noticed Julian had woken up and was watching him. Not wanting to surprise Aaron on the winding mountain road they were on, he reached over and gently touched Aaron’s forearm as he said his name softly. Aaron jumped just a bit and smiled over at Julian.

“Where were you? The only time I have seen you that deep in thought was when you were thinking about Teddy or missing home.” 

“I was thinking about us,” Aaron responded. 

Julian grinned from ear to ear, “Was I any good at whatever you were imagining?” He wiggled his eyebrows for a moment.

A small smile crossed Aaron’s lips. “Actually, can we wait and talk about this when we get to the lake house?”

“Of course,” Julian realized now that Aaron was not in a joking mood. He brought Aaron’s hand to his mouth where he kissed it but then let it go so Aaron could drive safely on the back road they were on. “Everything is okay with us, isn’t it?” Julian was now getting a little concerned.  What if Aaron wasn’t ready to leave Ted in the past?

Now Aaron gave him a genuine smile, “Everything is perfect, Julian. There are just a couple of things we have never talked about that we do  need to discuss.”

“No problem,” Julian said and then changed the conversation to the trip his parents were planning to visit Tanzania.

When they arrived, Aaron sent Julian in with the bag holding their clothes while he carried in the cooler and a tote bag that held their food. It didn’t take long to unpack and by 10:00 a.m. they sat in the shade looking over the lake with the mountains behind it.

“Tell me what you were thinking about in the Rover?” Julian asked as he linked his fingers with Aaron.

“Over the last few months, I think we have talked about almost everything.”

“Yes, we have. Well, I’m sure we still have many childhood stories to share in the next 50 years.” Julian brought Aaron’s hand to his mouth and kissed it.

“True, but as much as we talked about our lives, and our sex lives, we have never talked about,” Aaron hesitated thinking through his words, “positions. I know you have been with men and women. Why am I having trouble finding words to ask you this?” 

Julian turned on his side and looked at Aaron, “You know you can talk about anything with me.”

Now Aaron just blurted it out, “Are you a top or a bottom?”

Julian had to smile, “You’re right about that.  We haven’t talked about it.  I kind of got the feeling that you and Teddy didn’t follow any rules when it came to positions.”

“We didn’t but since you have been with women as well, I thought maybe you were only comfortable topping.”

“Would it make a big difference to you?” Julian asked curiously.

“It really wouldn’t, I guess. I love you and I want to make love with you and if you aren’t flexible that way, I will know what to expect.”

“I hope I am more flexible than that. Aaron, we don’t have to overthink this. I promise you, I am always up for an adventure and trying something new.  Over the years, didn’t you and Teddy find certain things one of you liked better than the other?” Julian’s hand slipped below Aaron’s waistband and he said, “I think it’s time we see how snuggly your amazing cock,” his fingers wrapped around Aaron’s penis, “fits in my ass.” As he spoke he let his hand run across Aaron’s perineum and then he slipped his finger into Aaron’s ass.

It was only moments before Aaron was rock hard. Aaron began tugging at Julian’s shorts and soon they were standing up and they both kicked their shorts to the side and then, with Julian on his hands and knees on the edge of the chaise lounge, accepted Aaron, who moved slowly allowing Julian to adjust with as little pain as possible.

By dinner, they had tried out several more positions and locations in the house. Gone were all of Aaron’s fears about his knowledge of sex and his ability to take all of Julian. This was exactly what they needed. Being away from all the prying eyes, allowed them both to relax.

That evening after dinner they sat on the deck watching the stars twinkle.  Both had a few aches and pains but they were all in the best places possible. Aaron put his arms around Julian’s neck and asked, “How is your shoulder feeling? We didn’t stress it out too much today did we?”

“We didn’t do anything to stress me out today.” Julian laughed lightly and kissed Aaron. 

“I know we have thrown it out there a couple of times but what are we doing when we are done here? I know we still have about three months left but I know how fast that time will go.”

“Aaron, I don’t think either of us wants to stay in Tanzania.  It is too restricted. I am sure we could get an assignment in a less restrictive area.”

“I know a place where there are no restrictions,” Aaron said, dragging his finger down Julian’s chest playfully.

“You still want to go back to Colorado, don’t you?”

“Would you be opposed? I wouldn’t do that if you didn’t want to.”

“I think you could probably convince me if you tried really hard.” 

Aaron pulled out his cell phone and clicked on a playlist. “Dance with me?” Aaron offered his hand to Julian and he stood up. “I can be pretty convincing when I have my arms around someone.” Aaron rubbed his pelvis against Julian’s

As they moved together to the rhythm of the music, Julian whispered, “I’ve always wanted to see Colorado.”


Chapter 8 by Simply written

Chapter 8 

After the weekend at the lake, the doctor and his veterinarian had no doubts about their relationship.  They belonged together.  They knew they had to be careful as long as they were in Tanzania. After having dinner together each evening they went their separate ways. They felt like hypocrites. Neither was ashamed of their relationship, but in this country, they could legally be arrested for loving each other.  Neither of them wanted that so they waited until the lights in the village homes went out and then they would meet at the designated house for the night.

Right after Christmas Julian’s parents came to visit. Julian’s parents fell in love with Aaron immediately.  They could instantly see that their son was happier than he had ever been before. Julian had never been one to settle but, although they weren’t excited their son was moving to Colorado, at least they knew Colorado was much more accessible than most of the places Julian had traveled to.

Brian and Justin were already very fond of Julian.  They could hear the change in Aaron’s voice and anyone that could make him happy was welcome on the ranch. The timing for their return to the States was perfect.  Terry and Griff, Brian and Justin’s partners at work, were moving back to Hawkin’s Island where their son, Elian, was now living. Elian had been living there since he finished college.  He had gotten married and was going to be a first-time father soon. Terry and Griff couldn’t wait to be grandpas. This freed up their house on the ranch.  If they decided to stay, they could either remodel that house or they could find a location to build something new. 

As the time to move was getting close, Julian and Aaron constantly talked about Spirit Pass. Julian would ask question after question while Aaron told stories about his childhood for hours.  They were going to spend two weeks in London at the Remington’s before taking the trip to their new home in Colorado.

Julian loved showing Aaron around his city.  They strolled the streets of London, hand in hand during the day and, in the evening, they usually spent time with Julian’s parents. Aaron really liked the Remington’s.  They were totally the opposite of his dads except when it came to loving their children.

One afternoon when they were just hanging out at Julian’s sister Victoria’s house, Julian walked up behind Aaron who was making homemade bread with his sister. He put his arms around Aaron’s waist and said, “Dad called. He asked if I could come to his office and then I’ll come back at the end of his day.”

“Sure, Julian. You didn’t want me to come along, did you? My bread…” Aaron said.

“No, it would just be boring for you.  I know a lot of Dad’s coworkers and, I guess Dad wants to show me off or something.”

Aaron turned and kissed him, “Let your dad show you off.  I will finish my bread and,” Aaron looked at Victoria, “I’d love to make dinner tonight.”

“I would love that, Aaron. Julian, you better keep treating this man the way we taught you.  If you screw it up, I might keep him and send you packing.” She turned and looped her arm in Julian’s. Turning to Aaron she said, “I’ll be right back.  I’m going to give Julian a list of errands to do for me.”

As soon as they got out of earshot Victoria asked, “Do you have everything planned?”

“Not yet but by the time I come home I hope I have everything worked out.  Now, I need to get going.  I told Dad I would need an office for a couple hours and Brian and Justin are expecting me to contact them in half an hour so I better get moving or I won’t be ready for the video call. Thanks for keeping Aaron entertained.” He kissed his sister on the cheek.

“You may think I was kidding but I love your man. I can see why you love him.”

Knowing Aaron was in good hands he made his way to his dad’s office.  There was a room available for him and the computer was already unlocked for him. Soon he was looking at the handsome faces of Aaron’s dads. “I am so glad you could make this work for you.”

Brian yawned and lifted up his cup of coffee. “It is pretty early but we are usually up around now.”

Justin smiled at the camera and said, “We were a little surprised you asked for this call since you are going to be here in, what is it, four days?”

“I will understand if you can’t make this work but …”

“Spit it out, Remmie,” Brian said before draining his mug.

“I want to marry your son.  We arrive the day before his birthday and I want to propose to him the night we get there and get married the next day.”

“Oh, Julian, I think that is wonderful. We both do, don’t we, Bri.”

Now Brian did smile genuinely, “You make him happy. That’s all we ask for him. So, sunshine, do you think we can get a wedding planned in four days?”

“I think with Fi’s help we can manage. We won’t be able to get a marriage license without you here but you can take care of that once you are settled in.” Julian smiled through the camera as he saw Jessi walking up behind her fathers. 

“Jessi is going to be pissed she missed it,” Justin said just as Jessi put one hand on the shoulder of each of her dads.

Once all the hugs and kisses were done and they sat down, Jessi perched on Brian’s lap and said, “Remmie and I have been talking about this  since he came up with this idea. I knew I had to be home for this. I told him about Gus and Fi’s wedding.  I am thinking, since this is a surprise, it might work to have the wedding on the plateau that looks over the valley.  We will be able to start setting it up without Aaron seeing it the minute they pull up.”

The four of them spoke for several more minutes making plans. As they wound up the call, Brian commented, “We have plenty of room for your parents to stay.”

“Thank you for that,” Julian said. “My sister, Victoria, is planning on coming as well. 

“The more the merrier,” Justin said.  “Have your parents text me the flight plans and we will make sure there is a car waiting for them.  I don’t think it will work for one of us to meet the plane but we’ll set something up for them.”

“I appreciate that. Thank you.” Julian stated as they said goodbye and ended the call.

Aaron and Victoria spent the afternoon in the kitchen putting dinner together and getting to know each other. After Aaron pulled the bread out of the oven and set it on a rack to cool, Victoria handed him a glass of wine and said, “Let’s sit a few minutes.  We have everything ready. Let’s sit for a few minutes.” They sat at a small table in the breakfast nook. Aaron didn’t say anything as he stared out the window.  Victoria saw the faraway look on his face. “What’s bothering you, Aaron.  I know I’m not your sister but if you want to talk..”

Aaron reached over and touched her hand, “I’m sorry. I’m being a bad guest.”

“What has you thinking so hard?”

“Do you think Julian is really with your dad?”

Victoria responded, “Where else would he be?”

“I’m really not the type that needs him to be at my side all the time but I guess I would want him to come along with me to meet family friends. He isn’t embarrassed of me is he?”

“Oh, Aaron, how could he be embarrassed by you?”

“Well, the other option is he is with an old girlfriend of something.” Aaron shook his head and then said, “I don’t know why I said that.  I think it is because I love him so much and I lost my first love and I don’t think my heart…”

“You don’t have to worry about that.  My brother has never loved before so I know he has no one else he would ever want to be with.”

Aaron seemed to relax after Victoria said that. He picked up the wine and took a sip. “Thanks for that. I don’t know why I was thinking that. It just feels like he’s hiding something.  This morning he was texting someone and the minute he saw me he looked guilty and stuck his phone in his pocket.”

“Have you ever had a reason not to trust him?”

Aaron sat there a moment and then said, “No, I haven’t. I am just being dumb.” Aaron’s phone vibrated and he looked at it, “Well, it looks like we need to put dinner in the oven.  Julian will be here in about half an hour.”  Aaron’s phone buzzed again and he looked at it.  His face softened ad he smiled.

“What was that?” Aaron held up his phone so Victoria could read it. Julian had texted once more and it just said, ‘Love you.’ 

Aaron message back, ‘Love you, too.’ He stood and walked around to Victoria and hugged her. “Thanks for not calling me silly.”

“Aaron, is everyone in your family as sweet as you are?”

“Sweet? I am definitely the most introverted of all of us but my dads were always helping people if they could and we never doubted how much our family loves us.”

“I can’t wait to meet them.” Victoria caught herself and added the word, “someday.”

“You can come and visit us in Colorado any time. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll put the lasagna in the oven.”

When Julian arrived he wrapped his arms around Aaron and by the time the kiss ended, Aaron had totally forgotten his doubts. The dinner conversation was lighthearted as they ate a salad, bread sticks, and the lasagna Aaron had made. Victoria and Julian had a similar rapport to Aaron and Jessi.  Aaron loved hearing their banter and it made him miss Jessi.

After the three of them cleaned up the kitchen, they played a couple card games before Julian and Aaron said goodbye to her. Aaron noticed the two whispered a bit before they left to Julian’s parents’ house. Aaron extended an invitation for Victoria to visit anytime.

As Aaron and Julian lay in bed later that evening, Aaron curled up against Julian as his hand tracked Julian’s treasure trail. “Julian, this afternoon I had to have Victoria reassure me that you really were with your dad and then the two of you whispering before we left her house, I know I shouldn’t be jealous. You have always been 100% honest with me so I don’t know why I feel like this.”

Julian captured Aaron’s hand and kissed the palm. “This may sound crazy to you but that actually makes me very happy.”

“Me acting like a fool makes you happy?”

Julian rolls over and looked at him. “Have you ever felt like that before?”

“Only one time when this guy was hitting on Teddy our junior year of college. They were lab partners.  We had most of our classes together but that was one class I wasn’t in.  I still remember stopping by the lab when Teddy was working with him and, when I walked in the guy had his arm draped around Teddy’s waist and then his hand slid downward. I was just about to walk in and tell them both what I thought about them when Teddy, who hadn’t seen me, stepped away from him and said, loud and clear, ‘Don’t do that.  I have never cheated on Aaron and I never will.  I am sure you’re a nice guy but I will always love Aaron and I will never do anything to hurt him.’ The guy tried to convince Teddy that I’d never know.”

“I promise you will never have to worry about that with me either. I love you and as long as I have you, I don’t need anything more.” Julian rolled further so his body was pressing Aaron into the mattress. Speaking of how much I love you,” Julian’s mouth covered Aaron’s and soon, rather than talking about love, they showed each other how much they cared.

Jessi was in full wedding planner mode.  With the help of Fiona, Jessi planned the surprise wedding.  As Fi and Jessi looked at flowers Fi questioned, “What if Aaron doesn’t want to get married? It seems a little risky planning this. Oh, and I would hate Aaron to have more troubles in his life.”

Jessi smiled at her sister in-law as she cuddled her new niece. “Aaron is crazy about Remmie. He would never say no.  You’ll see when you meet him but Julian Remington is a special guy.  He understands Aaron had a first love and would never make him stop mentioning Teddy.  Teddy made Aaron who he is and Remmie will always be thankful for that.”

“I am so happy for him.  This Remmie is very lucky he recognized what Aaron has to give.”

Both of them agreed Aaron wouldn’t want many flowers.  The wedding was outside overlooking the valley that was covered with wildflowers right now. The yellows, purples, and white flowers would be a gorgeous background.

Jessi could see Fi’s mind working. “Do you think Joshua would make a pine arch? I think if he did that it would be about all we need for the alter.” 

Jessi smiled.  “That would be perfect.” She pulled out her phone and texted Brian. ‘Daddy, come to the kitchen.’ “Daddy B will get Joshua to do that.  Now all we need are boutonnieres to pin on the grooms and  maybe we can just pick some of the wild flowers for a little more color for the reception.”

Brian walked into the kitchen and after kissing Jessi on the top of her head, he took Fi and Gus’ baby from her. The infant smiled at her grandpa. “So what is so important, ladies.” Brian always acted like he wasn’t into weddings but Jessi knew he would do anything for his family and he always had a way to get things done.

Within a few minutes, after Jessi took the baby back, Brian was on the phone, knowing the right person to contact. Now that he had been pulled in, Brian soon had contacts for food, flowers, and rental chairs. After giving Jessi and Fi the numbers for all he had contacted, he again took his granddaughter and left the women to do the work.

Julian’s father drove Aaron and Julian to the airport. As they had said goodbye to his mom at the house, Aaron was surprised his mother had not shed a tear and other than a quick hug with his father, there was no show of emotion.  Once they were on the plane, Aaron questioned Julian, “I know my family can be a bit over the top with hugs and tears but if I didn’t know better, I would think you were going to see your family again in a week.”

Julian hoped Aaron believed his response. “You know we Brits aren’t always the most demonstrative people.”

“I would have believed that if I hadn’t gotten to know your parents a little bit the last week. Your mother especially definitely wasn’t reserved with her emotions.”

“Well, they do know I am going to the mountains of the USA rather than the wilds of Africa.” Trying to take his mind off the conversation, Julian continued, “So what are we going to do with our couple days in New York City?”

Before they realized it, they were heading to the airport again. While in NYC, they saw a couple of broadway plays as well as having dinner with old family friends, Ted and Blake. They happened to be in New York for a few days.  As much as Aaron was enjoying his time with Julian and old friends, he was getting anxious to see his dads and the rest of the family at Spirit Pass.

To their surprise, as they rode to the airport, Aaron got a text from Justin.  It said, ‘Change of plans.  Terry is waiting for you at the airport.’ Aaron gave them directions to the small airport. Aaron gave the driver the new address and soon Aaron was getting a bear hug from Terry. 

“Terry, it is so amazing to see you.  You didn’t have to make this trip. We could have come commercial.” Aaron hugged Terry and then introduced Julian and Terry who immediately formed a bond.

“I know you could have flown commercial but I hadn’t done a long flight in a while.  I need to get used to it because I know we will be going back and forth from the ranch to Hawkin’s Island.”

“I thought you were already at the island.” Aaron said as they got on the plane.

“We’ve already been back and forth a couple times.” Terry said as he got into the pilot’s seat and completed his flight checklist.  

“Julian, why don’t you sit up by Terry.  I’m sure you have lots of questions for him about possible job opportunities.  Since someone kept me up most of the night,” he winked at Julian thinking about their activities in bed the night before. “I plan to sleep for a while.” He put sound proof headphones and closed his eyes as the plane lifted into the air.

Terry and Julian had headsets on, allowing them to hear each other. Once they were at cruising altitude, and assuring Aaron was sleeping, Terry smiled over at Julian, “I have heard the wedding will be ready.  Jenn and Kevin, Aaron’s grandparents are flying in today.  They are flying in just before your family.  Kevin will drive them all up to the ranch.”

Julian grinned from ear to ear.  “That is great news.”

“Now this part is totally up to you but if you would like to ask Aaron, before you get to the house, Jessi is going to have some vehicle for you to drive back to the ranch.  Just ask Aaron to show you the view of the valley. Jessi is sure Aaron will take you to the spot they are setting up the wedding. I promise no one is hiding in the woods out there but I do think they have some cameras that will record it for you.”

“That sounds perfect.  It is driving me crazy not knowing what he will say.”

“From everything I have heard, there is no question. I have never seen Aaron look at anyone like he looks at you.”

“I am sure you knew Teddy,” Julian said softly.

“I did and they had a special bond and if Teddy would have lived, they would have been happy for the rest of their lives but that ended when Teddy got sick.  I can see you two have something special.”

“Thanks, Terry, I needed that. Now what do you know about job opportunities for an English doctor.”

Terry and Julian talked career options for Julian until Aaron woke a couple hours later.  Julian than took the back seat while Aaron and Terry talked about Elian, Terry’s son.  Elian had married and they were now expecting a child. When the conversation waned, Terry said, “I like Julian. I can see you two are a good match.”

“I didn’t know if I would ever say this but I think so too.  After Teddy, you know what a mess I was.”

“You handled that better than most would have.  You two had such a close relationship.  You had been friends so long before you realized you were in love. Teddy did all he could for you as he died.  I heard him say so many times that you needed to do exactly what you are doing now.”

“Ya, I may have to ask that man to marry me someday.” Aaron half turned in his seat and looked at the sleeping Julian.

“I have to say, he is very handsome,” Terry said.  “Of course, there is no one for me but Griff.”

“You two definitely belong together.”

“I couldn’t agree more. We both will always work but I am glad we are both cutting way back.  We plan to spend a lot of time on our boat.”

“Didn’t you sell your yacht?”

“We had but we have bought a new one.  It hasn’t arrived yet but once it does, we hope to spend a lot of time on it. But if you and Julian ever want to use it for a couple weeks, just let us know. We should have it by the end of the month and of course we will be using it the first month or two but after that, we will want to spend time with Elian and his family.”

“Maybe if I actually get up the nerve to ask Julian to marry me, we can use it for a honeymoon.”

“I think that would be a great reason.” Terry couldn’t look him in the eye. “I see Julian waking up.  Why don’t you go back and sit with him for a while. We will be landing in an hour and I’m not sleepy.”

“Thanks, Terry, for all of this.” Aaron put an arm around Terry’s shoulder for a minute and then moved to the back, dropping onto Julian’s lap and kissed him as Julian put his arms around him and pulled him close.

An hour later Terry had them buckle up and he descended for a perfect landing. The three of them disembarked and put their luggage in the back of the vehicle that had been left for them. 

“I just can’t believe how beautiful this is.  I can’t imagine having grown up here,” Julian said as he turned in a circle looking all around them. When Julian got around to Terry he did a slight nod and then took Aaron’s hand, “Aaron, can you show me the valley you talk about all the time. I can’t wait to see my first bison.”

Terry jumped in, “Aaron, why don’t I drop you two off at the trail by the valley and I will go back to the house.  I can send a car back with someone in a little bit.”

“Don’t bother,” Aaron said.  “It’s not even a mile from here to the house. We can walk back, can’t we, Julian.”

“Sure, not a problem.”

“If you’re sure,” Terry responded. “I wouldn’t stay away too long.  I know your dads are excited to see you. If you take too long, they may come get you.” Terry said this for Julian’s benefit.  If he drug his feet, he had no doubt Brian and Justin would be coming to find them. Terry stopped just around the corner from the trail that led to the clearing overlooking the valley.

Aaron and Julian got out and waved at Terry before linking fingers and they started walking down the trail. 

“How far is the lookout from here?” Julian asked.

“Maybe a  quarter of a mile we will go around a curve up there.” He pointed ahead where there was an obvious turn. 

As they walked, Aaron pointed out different species of flora and fawna. Julian was glad Aaron was so absorbed in nature that he hadn’t noted how quiet Julian was. Julian’s mind was going over what he was going to say in a few moments.

“That’s weird,” Aaron said now that they had come around the corner and he could see one of the ranch carts parked near the clearing. “I wonder who left that there? And it looks like there has been activity around here.”

“Maybe they have been using the clearing for something.” Julian was so nervous he nearly tripped over his words.

“I’m confused but that’s ok.” Aaron couldn’t stop himself.  He began to jog and Julian kept up with him. As they got to the edge of the clearing, Julian lost his ability to speak for a moment. He couldn’t believe what he was seeing. In front of them was the valley full of the huge creatures he had only ever seen in pictures or on TV.

Aaron pointed across the valley, “Do you see that house across the valley? You have to look closely because it blends in. That’s where Gus and Fi live.” 

“They have this view everyday. It is just breathtaking.” Julian continued to look at his surroundings.

As Julian lost himself for a moment, Aaron looked at his all time favorite spot just off to the side and realized there was a blanket and a basket sitting there. “What is going on here?”

That snapped Julian back to the present. “Going on?” 

“Someone put a blanket out right where I used to spend hours. There is even a basket.” Aaron took Julian’s hand and led him over.  “Terry’s son and I spent hours here. We would make up stories about being cowboys but we were always friends of the native people.” He looked at Julian, “Are you alright? You are so quiet.”

Without thinking about it anymore, Julian reached into his pocket as he dropped to one knee. “Aaron, I love you.  I don’t want to ever live without you.  Wherever you go I’ll go.” He opened the small box he had in his hand, “Aaron, please say you’ll marry me.”

Aaron looked down at the man he loved and stretched his hand out to Julian, allowing him to slip a ring on his finger. “Oh, Julian, I….”

Before Aaron could finish the sentence, Julian stood up.  “Please say that’s a yes.”

Aaron threw his arms around Julian’s neck. “Oh, yes.” He kissed Julian once. “Oh, yes, yes, yes.” Aaron kissed him after every yes.

After several more minutes of murmuring and kissing, Aaron stepped just far enough away to open the basket and inside of it was a bottle of champaign in a cooler along with two glasses.

Aaron handed the bottle to Julian and then picked up the glasses. As Julian poured the bubbling beverage, Aaron asked, “Who set this all up? Who did you talk to about this?”

“Let’s enjoy our champaign and we can talk about all of that when we get back to the house.”

After taking a sip of the wonderful drink, Aaron offhandedly said, “I hope you don’t want too long of an engagement.”

“Oh, I guess I forgot to mention, my parents and your grandparents will be here today and, although it won’t be a legal wedding, we’re planning on having it tomorrow.”

Aaron’s eyes went wide, “TOMORROW!” 

Chapter 9 by Simply written

Chapter 9

“You’re joking, right? There is no way we can have a wedding tomorrow.” Aaron’s eyes searched Julian’s face to see if he was serious.

“Aaron, Jessi has been planning it with Fi for four days.”

“Wait, you said your parents are here?”

“Yes, and so is Victoria.”

“And did you say my grandparents?”

“Yes, love, I think all the most important people in your life will be here.”

Julian pulled Aaron to him and kissed him. “Now, I have a feeling if we don’t head to the house, they will come find us soon.”

“Have I told you lately how much I love you, Dr. Remington?”

“I never get tired of hearing that, Dr. Taylor-Kinney.” They picked up the blanket and basket and put it in the back of the ATV. Aaron got behind the wheel and Julian got in next to him.

Before taking off, Aaron slipped the ring off.  “I am sure this is for the wedding.” He held the ring out to him.

“No please keep that on.” He took it and put it back on Aaron’s finger. He pulled another ring out of his pocket and slipped it on his own finger. “You better start driving and I’ll keep talking. If you notice, this ring is a little thin but there is another band that will interlock with these. They will snap together. I’ll show you when we get to our bags.”

“That sounds great.” Aaron was pulling onto the main road and from a little distance away, he heard a beep.  He turned and looked behind him and then slammed on the brakes and put the ATV into park. 

“Aaron, is something wrong?”

“No, it’s Gus,” Aaron said over his shoulder as he ran toward the vehicle coming toward them. Gus stopped and was soon running to meet him. 

“Aaron, welcome home!” Gus said as he hugged his little brother. “I’m so glad you’re moving back. I’ve missed you.”

“I’ve missed you, too. Julian, come.” Aaron waved his fiance over.  He turned to his brother, “I am guessing you already know but I guess we are getting married tomorrow.” Julian woke up and slipped his left arm around Aaron as he extended his hand to Gus.

“Julian, I’m so happy to meet you, and welcome to the family,” Gus shook Julian’s offered hand. “I hope you know what a great guy you are getting.  We had our moments but I can’t think of any time that we were really angry at each other.”

Julian kissed Aaron’s temple, “I realized that soon after I met him. I promise I will always treat him the way he deserves to be treated. Oh, and remember, I have met Jessi.  She has threatened me already.”

“Damn straight, I did.” Jessi’s voice came from behind them. And then she ran into Aaron’s arms.  “I told him you’d say yes. By the way, the Dads sent me down here to get you.  They want to meet Remmie and see you before Grandma and Grandpa and the Remingtons arrive.  Oh, and Emma has been cooking the last two days making all your favorites.”

“Doesn’t she know she is retired?” Aaron asked.

“She is still the house manager and ‘no one could cook them the way you liked them best’,” she said in her best imitation of Emma’s Irish accent.

“You better not let Emma hear you talking like that,” Aaron said with a laugh in his voice.

Gus looked over at Remmie. “Do you prefer Remmie or Julian?” 

“I’m fine with either,” Julian responded.

“Aaron, why don’t you take Jessi, and I will have a five-minute conversation with your soon-to-be husband.” Gus looked at Julian and Julian nodded.

“Gus, if you didn’t have your beautiful wife I wouldn’t let you alone with him.” Aaron jumped in behind the wheel and Jessi got into the ATV next to him and then they were flying.

“Now I can see why Aaron missed this place,” Remmie said as Gus followed his siblings but at a much slower pace.

“We are very spoiled here. We live…” Gus started but Remmie interrupted.

“Aaron pointed it out to me. I can’t imagine seeing this every day.”

“You better get used to it. You are staying here, right?”

“I am.”

“Aaron told you all about Teddy?” Gus asked.

“Aaron has to be the strongest man I know. They loved each other so much,” Julian commented. “I know how important Teddy was to him and I will always respect their relationship.

“Jessi said you were perfect for each other and she was right,” Gus said as they parked by the house just as the house door flung open and Brian and Justin strode out.

“Wow!” Remmie said softly

“The house pretty amazing.”

“I was talking about your dads. I knew they were a beautiful couple but seeing them together I can see where Aaron and where you get your looks.”

“We both did take after the father we are related to by blood, not that it ever showed in the way we were treated.” Gus smiled, “And there is Fi and our daughter, Katie.”

“You have a beautiful family.”

“I do, don’t I,” Gus commented as they closed the distance between them.

“It is so good to see you, Aaron,” Justin said as he pulled him into his arms. 

“Let me hug him, Sunshine. It’s my turn. You go meet our new son.”

As Brian reached out for Aaron, Aaron rushed around Justin to Julian’s side. In his excitement, he kissed Julian and by the time he turned around Brian had walked up behind Justin and wrapped his arms around his shoulders, kissing Justin’s head above his ear and he softly said, “So good to see him happy.”

Aaron took Julian’s hand and they walked to his dads. “Julian, I want you to meet my dads, Brian Kinney and Justin Taylor, Dads this is my fiance…I love how that sounds…Julian Remington.”

“Aaron, don’t get too used to the fiance thing.  Tomorrow he will be your husband.” Brian gave Aaron a quick kiss on the cheek and then extended his hand to Julian. “Welcome to the family, Julian.” Rather than just shaking his hand, Brian pulled him into his arms. 

“Thank you, Mr. Kinney. I’m very happy to be a part of it.”

“He’s Brian and I’m Justin,” Justin repeated Brian’s actions. “We haven’t seen Aaron look this happy for about five years.”

“I have to tell you, I’m a little starstruck.  I saw an exhibition of yours a few years ago, in Barcelona and I had never seen more compelling work.  They moved me somewhere deep inside.”

“You have two fathers-in-law you should be shitting here,” Brian said, now draping an arm around Aaron’s shoulders.

Gus introduced his wife and daughter after that. Fi smiled at the handsome doctor, “It is nice to meet you. You can’t imagine how happy I am that we will have a doctor living here again. With wee ones here, the nearest doctor is too far away.”

“I will be happy to check on this lovely little ginger any time,” Julian said as he looked at the baby, now in Jessi’s arms.

“Are you all going stand out there all day?” Emma called out from the doorway of the house. 

“We better go. You don’t want to get Emma mad at you.”

After greeting Emma and each eating a cookie, Aaron gave Julian a quick tour of the downstairs and then they moved upstairs to Aaron’s childhood room. “I love this house.  There is a view from every window and that whole area downstairs was for your cats?”

“It was.  I still miss KC and JC. They both lived a long life but once one passed away, the other just had no reason to live. I am glad they left a little bit of the cage to have the small aviary. I like hearing life around us and I can imagine little Katie watching them soon.” 

 “I thought our suitcases would be in here,” Julian said after he realized none of their things were in there.”

“I hope you don’t mind but we are going to stay in the room across the hall.  It was Gus’ room and it is nicer.  It has a balcony.” Aaron’s voice sounded slightly distant.

Julian held him close and kissed him. “I understand.  You shared this room with Teddy for several years, off and on.  Of course it would make you uncomfortable. Let’s go check out the bed in that room.”

Together they stumbled across the hall and fell onto the bed. “You know, this is why I love you so much.”

“Because of the way I kiss?” Julian asked as he nuzzled Aaron’s neck.

Aaron stopped him and made Julian look him in the eyes. “I didn’t need to say what was going on in my head. You just knew.”

“That’s because I learned to love when I met you.” Julian pinned Aaron to the bed but before they knew what was going on, the door flew open, and the next thing they knew Jessi had pushed them apart and was lying on the bed between them. 

“You two know you can’t sleep in here together tonight.  It is the night before your wedding.”

“Jessi, you are the least traditional person I know and why did you just barge into the room without knocking.” Aaron realized he sounded just like he had when they were kids. “What are you doing in here anyway, or did you just come to interrupt us.”

“Oh, ya, I almost forgot.  The car from the airport just came through the gate so they should be up here in about 10 minutes.  We thought you both would want to be downstairs when they arrived.” Jessi kissed Aaron and then Remmie on the cheek. “Oh, one more thing, you better ask Grandpa to be your officiant.  I mentioned it to him when I told him about the wedding but I know it would mean more if he heard it from you.” She stood up and the men followed.

Aaron hugged his little sister, “Thanks, Jess, we will do that. We will be down before they get here.”

After Jessi had left them alone, Julian asked, “Your grandfather is a priest, right?”

“Yep, but he never wears the collar.”

“I just can’t get over the fact that he is accepting of our lifestyle. I guess he adapted when he found out his son was gay.”

“It has nothing to do with my dad.” Aaron took Julian’s hand and they moved to the hall. “Grandpa just believes that when the Bible says ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’ it means it.”

“I like him already,” Julian said as they walked across the foyer and opened the front door as the cloud of dust showed the guests were nearly here.

The next hour was spent with the families getting to know each other.  Emma had laid out a spread of all her specialty treats along with tea and coffee. More than once the laughter surprised a dozing Katie, who whimpered but went right back to sleep.

Aaron saw Kevin separating from a small group and moving toward the coffee pot. He linked his arm with Julian and politely excused both of them from a conversation with Jessi and Victoria. As they walked toward Kevin, they heard Jessi telling Victoria what they were up to.

“Hey, Gramps, can we talk to you for a minute?”

Kevin set down his still-empty coffee cup and extended his arms, “I always have time for one of my favorite grandsons.” He put an arm around each of the men and directed them out the back door. They strode across the yard without a word until they got to the mini farm.  All the mini livestock of Aaron’s childhood had passed away but they had continued the tradition and still had highland cows, pygmy goats, donkeys, and horses, all in miniature.

“They are so cute!” Julian said as he reached down and ran his fingers across the flank of one of the horses.

“Let’s sit on the bench,” Kevin said. “It seems counterintuitive but sitting on the plane and in the car has made my knee tighten up so I need to sit.” All three laughed. “Funny but true at my age.”

“Oh, Grandpa, you have a lot of good years left,” Aaron said as they sat on the bench they had put nearby just for this reason.

“I hope so but I’m closer to 80 than 70. Now, I think you wanted to have a discussion. I am guessing it isn’t about the birds and the bees since I am sure you gentlemen have that figured out and I have no experience in that department, not with a man, anyway.”

“We know that Jessi mentioned officiating our wedding for us.”

“I understand if you have other plans.  I am just so happy you two found each other.”

“Father Cain, we would be honored to have you marry us,” Julian responded.

“Julian, you’ll have to either call me Kevin or Grandpa just like the other grandchildren.”

Aaron turned toward Kevin and said, “Grandpa, we want you to marry us.  We want you to say all the normal, love one another stuff.  Could you leave out the words until death do us part? I have had enough of that.”

Kevin put an arm around Aaron and pulled him tightly against him.  “You have had enough of that in your young life. I won't use that phrase. Julian, I want you to know that your understanding nature when it comes to Teddy couldn’t have been handled any better.”

“I can’t expect Aaron to forget his first love and I am grateful to Teddy for showing Aaron how to love. Of course, your whole family taught him to love but…”

“I know what you mean,” Kevin said and patted Julian’s shoulder. “Is there anything you want me to say at the ceremony?”

“You have done plenty of weddings.  Just say what you want and we will come up with our vows,” Aaron said as he stood and walked over to the fence to look at one of the goats. “I wonder if my dads know this goat is about to give birth.”

“You examine your new patient. I have a service to plan. I’ll let your dads know about the goat.”

“I can’t believe we are going to be living here,” Julian said as he stood with Aaron on the balcony.  “I have done my share of traveling but I can't imagine anything more beautiful.”

“Please don’t say anything stupid using me and beautiful in the same sentence.”

“You are stunning.” Julian’s hand wandered down to Aaron’s ass, pulling him tightly against his own need. “But as stunning as you are, I’m not going to sleep with you. I’m going across the hall to your old room.”

“Are you sure, Julian?” Aaron asked after kissing him.

“Yes, I’m sure. Now,” after one last kiss, Julian grabbed a bag Aaron hadn’t noticed and pulled the door closed behind him.

Aaron stood at the French doors looking into the sky. He had tried to sleep but he couldn’t even close his eyes.  Every time he tried his mind went to tomorrow and the wedding. The thought of living the rest of his life with Julian was exciting but somewhere in the back of his mind, there was just a little spot of sadness. He kept thinking of what it would have been like to be married to Teddy.  He kept feeling like he was two people inside one body. He had no doubt he was doing the right thing. 

He turned and sat on the edge of the bed when he heard a whisper of a knock and then the door creaked open. As soon as Aaron saw it was Justin he said, “I’m awake, Dad. You can come in.”

“I didn’t wake you, did I?” Justin asked as he shut the door behind him and came to sit on the bed next to him.

Aaron moved over and patted the pillow.  Justin laid down and put his arms around Aaron who curled up next to his dad. “You having trouble sleeping, too?” Aaron asked.

“I kept thinking about you and just had an idea you were still awake.”

“You don’t think I’m making a mistake, do you?” Aaron questioned.

“Not at all.  Brian and I both love Julian. I just thought you might be fighting with memories.”

“Oh, Daddy, how did you know?”

“I may have worried about you just a little more than your brother and sister. Not really more, I guess. With Gus, we always worried about the relationship with his moms. We never wanted him to feel unwanted.”

“I can understand that and you always did a good job of that.”

“And your sister, Jessi always got the best of us no matter what she did.  We worried about her being overconfident and worrying she would say the wrong thing to the wrong person.”

Aaron had to smile at that. “The world will never be dull with Jessi in it. Why did you worry about me?”

“You know I never thought of you as anything but my son but we both know how we are related by blood. You were too little to remember our fight to keep him away from you and there were times I wondered if we should have let him at least have a little contact with you.”

“Dad, I didn’t miss out on anything.  You and Dad gave me everything I ever needed.  We had Grandpa and Grandma, not to mention all of the rest of our village.  Auntie Emmett and Uncle James and then there was Kate and Quinn, not to mention Terry and Griff. We didn’t have a village, we had a country taking care of us but you and Dad, we always knew you were there for us.” Aaron yawned.

“Here I was coming to try to calm your nerves and instead you helped me with mine.” Justin kissed his cheek and sat up. “I will let you sleep after I say this. Brian and I have learned so much from your example. The way you dealt with Teddy, all the strength and dignity in that horrible situation, at such a young age. We don’t know where you learned that but we are so proud of you and what you have accomplished.”

“Thanks, Dad. I could never have done it without my family.: He yawned. “I think I better get some sleep now.”

Justin walked to the door. “We’ll see you in the morning, Aaron. I love you.”

“I love you, too, Dad, and remember, everything you did for me, for all of us, was all we could have ever asked for.”

Justin climbed into bed, next to Brian. “Where have you been?” Brian turned over and threw a leg over his husband. “Don’t tell me.  You were with our groom.”

“I was.  I couldn’t sleep and I figured he would be awake, too, and he was.”

Brian pressed his lips against Justin’s neck and began to leave a trail of kisses. “Damn, you taste amazing but then you always do.”

“Bri, as good as that feels, I think we both need some sleep.”

“Are you sure I can’t relieve a little tension for you?” Brian’s hand moved under Justin’s waistband and it only took a few strokes of Brian’s skilled hand and Justin was fully erect.

Justin gently pushed Brian down below the blankets, “If you must.” Justin sighed as Brian’s mouth closed around his erection. “Brian Kinney, I love you.”

Chapter 10 by Simply written

Chapter  10

The morning of the wedding dawned cool but sunny.  Aaron was still in bed staring at the ceiling when there was a knock on the door and then it swung open.  “Don’t blame me for all the food. I told Emma that you would never eat all this.” Jessi came in with a tray completely loaded with every breakfast food a person could imagine. “Did you get any sleep?”

“I got a few hours.  Once Dad left about 1:00, I slept until a few minutes ago.”

“Let me guess, Justin?”

Aaron smiled at his sister as she set the breakfast tray on a small table near the French doors. He got out of bed and slipped on a robe before sitting by the table since there was a chill in the room. “Yes, Justin. You are going to help me eat this, aren’t you?”

Jessi sat on the other chair by the table and brought her feet up on the chair. She then reached for a buttery croissant which she started pulling apart, layer by layer, popping each piece in her mouth. 

“How did you know it was Daddy J?” Justin looked at the plate with a waffle, strawberries, and whipped cream and pulled it closer to himself.  He cut off a piece with a fork and knife and savored the bite.

“I noticed his emotions were at the surface.  You know how he used to get a little crazy when he was finishing a commissioned project? He always had some tells.  He wasn’t on the crazy side this week like he would about his artwork, but I could tell he was thinking hard about something.”

“That fits.  He wanted to be sure Julian was comfortable with Teddy and asked if I had a happy childhood.”

“A happy childhood? Did you have a different one than I did?”

“It all has to do with the fact we shared a bio dad. He hoped I hadn’t wanted to spend more time with him.  I vaguely remember when Justin’s dad came around a few times and tried to get visitation time with me.”

“I don’t remember that,” Jessi sipped on her coffee.

“You’re younger than me and I barely remember it. I wasn’t supposed to hear them but I overheard our dads say if he wanted to visit, it had to be with all three of us, not just me.” Aaron finished his waffle, picked up a piece of bacon, and took a bite as they both sat silently with their thoughts.

Jessi refilled her cup and topped off Justin’s with more steaming coffee. Then she sighed and said, “How could they ever think they weren’t the best parents in the world? They always made sure we had a solid female example. They tucked us more nights than most parents.  We could be spoiled, snotty, slugs.  Instead, Gus works with protecting natural resources.  You’re a vet and spent time working in Africa. I’m taking pictures around the world to show people how others live. We aren’t whiny, useless, coddled assholes like so many rich kids.”

“Jessi,  what got you so wound up today?”

“I never thought about it but now I know that before I leave for Asia again, I’m going to tell them they were the best parents in the world and I could never have picked a better pair.” Jessi stood and stretched. “Don’t you think you should take a shower. Aren’t you getting married today?”

“I have plenty of time.”

“What are you wearing?” As soon as Jessi said it she realized something. “You hadn’t thought about that, have you?”

“No!: Aaron nearly tipped the table over as he jumped up. “I mean we just got engaged yesterday and then the family arrived.”

“Call Remmie and see what he is planning to wear.  He expected the wedding. Then I will find something for you in your old closet or in Dad’s.”

“Can’t I just run across the hall and talk to Julian?”

“No, he and his family went over to Terry and Griff’s house.  Victoria insisted you two can’t see each other.”

“Good morning, Julian.” Silence. “I love you, too. What are you wearing for our wedding? I don’t know what to wear.” Silence. “Ok, Jessi said she would find something somewhere in the house. Are we really not going to see each other?” More silence. “Yes, darling.  I love you.”

“So what is he wearing?” Jessi asked.

“He said he had a casual suit he was wearing.  What is a casual suit?” Aaron was getting anxious now.  He started to pace.

“Bro, you trust me when it comes to clothing, right?”

Aaron flung open the closet before realizing none of his clothes were in this room. “Of course I do, Jessi, but that isn’t helping at the moment.” 

“Go shower in your old room. I am going to run next door and see Remmie’s suit and then we will pull something together. Dad has a lot of clothes downstairs and it should fit you.” Jessi walked over and put her arms around Aaron. “I am so happy for you, Aaron. Teddy is, too.” She kissed his cheek and then nearly skipped out the door.

Thirty minutes later, Aaron stood in front of the mirror finishing his shave when there was a knock on his door. “Who is it?”

“Your dad,” Brian’s voice came from the hall and then the door opened. “Jessi and your dad are digging through our closets so I thought I’d check on you.” Brian couldn’t stop looking at Aaron.

“What, did I cut myself?” Aaron glanced in the mirror, relieved he didn’t see any blood.

Brian took a couple steps further in the room as Aaron walked over to him. “Are you Ok?”

Brian reached out and touched Aaron’s cheek, “I’m good.  You just look so much like Justin sometimes.”

“I hope his clothes will fit me.  I hadn’t even thought about it until Jessi said it this morning.  I imagined that when the time came we would go shopping together and find something that went together.”

Brian started messing with Aaron’s hair. He walked to the bathroom and came back with a comb. “I don’t know why I think I can do your hair.”

“Of course you can.  Your hair is always perfect, although, I think there is a little more gray in it.” Aaron winked at Brian.

“You know, I don’t even mind.” Brian tossed the comb to the bed and put his hands on Aaron’s shoulders. Looking Aaron directly in the eyes, he said, “You can’t know how glad I am you found Julian. For years we pictured you with Teddy and when he passed, I worried you may not ever open up to someone new.” Brian pulled his son close and said, “This may piss you off but, as much as I loved Teddy, the two of you were always comfortable together. You and Julian have the best kind of tension between you.”

“I’m not mad, Dad. I will always remember the love between Teddy and me but I know what you mean. I would have loved him the rest of my life but, now that I have been with Julian, I know a new level of the physical side of love.”

They both turned as they heard someone coming up the steps. Jessi came rushing into the room. “This is so perfect! Oh, Daddy, we wondered where you had gone.”

“What did you find, Jess?” Aaron asked her anxiously. Brian turned to leave but she stopped him, “Daddy, stay.  I want you to see it put together and see what you think.”

“Jessi, did you talk to Julian? Did he sleep well? Is he ready to get married? He didn’t change his mind, did he?”

“Yes, no, yes, no, in that order. Oh, and don’t blame me but he said I had to do this.” She gave him a quick kiss on the lips. “He said on the lips and that you needed to know it was from him.” She smiled at her brother, “Remmie isn’t sure if he can wait until 3:00.”

“I don’t even know what the schedule is for the day,” Aaron said.”

“Jess, you talk. I doubt you can talk and pass clothes at the same time.”

Jessi swatted Brian and then as Aaron tried on the clothes she had brought up, she explained the ceremony was mid afternoon and then there would be appetizers out on the front lawn and then Emma is making dinner for everyone.”

“Isn’t it just us, the family, I mean?” Aaron asked.

Brian tied Aaron’s tie and then straightened his collar as Jessi continued, “It is mostly family but we invited a couple friends from town.  Dr. Matt, since he let you work with him all those summers.  We invited a couple of your teachers and, of course, the employees.” 

Brian stopped straightening and tucking and Jessi did a low whistle. Brian’s voice was a little shaky when he said, “Julian is a lucky man.”

“Whoa, bro, that clothes fits you like it was made for you.” Jessi walked around Aaron twice, making him nervous.

“Will you stop? What are you doing anyway, Jess?”

“I am picturing you and Remmie standing side by side.”

“Now that I’m dressed, what am I going to do? We have a couple hours before the ceremony.”

“I’m going to go get ready.” Brian walked toward the door. “Maybe I can catch your dad before he gets in the shower.”

“Dad, just remember there is a wedding today and guests will start coming in an hour or so.”  Jessi said to Brian’s back and then she and Aaron looked at each other and burst out laughing.

“So what’s next on my schedule?”

“Next on the list is pictures. I need ten minutes to change clothes and then I am going to take your wedding pictures. You are ok with seeing Remmie before the ceremony, right?”

“Of course! I wanted to sleep with him last night.  Will Victoria agree with that?”

“I talked her into it.  I told her I needed to take pictures before the wedding. I need a couple hours for that so she said Ok and she is going to help me with equipment before the service.  During the service she will be busy being the best madam.”

“Best man…I didn’t think about that? Will you…”

“Ah, Aaron, ask Gus.  I really want to get pictures of all this.  You call Gus and I’ll be right back.”

The next hour Jessi took pictures of Aaron first in the house and then at several locations around the ranch.  She finished the pictures of Aaron near the spot Julian had proposed and then, with the sunbeams coming through the pine trees, Victoria walked out with a blindfolded Julian while Aaron had his back to his groom.  Jessi got into position  and then Victoria uncovered her brother’s eyes while Aaron slowly turned around.  The men stood about twenty feet apart. Jessi took picture after picture capturing their faces, their body language as they moved toward each other.

Both men were in khaki pants, and dark brown jackets. Julian had on a deep coral button down shirt while Aaron’s shirt was the color of the Caribbean Sea. Aaron’s skin and hair were still kissed by the African sun. While his bleached hair was longer than normal, his tanned skin made his eyes look even brighter blue.

“Damn, Aaron, I didn’t know you could get more gorgeous.” Julian walked up to him and at first they held hands and looked at each other but then, at the same time, they stepped even closer and kissed.

Jessi moved around them taking pictures and just as she was about to tell them to do something else. Julian pressed Aaron backward in a deep dip. Out of nowhere a beam of sunlight illuminated the couple and the light fragmented behind them causing a halo to appear around them. 

Victoria softly said, “Did you get that?”

“These are going to be so perfect,” Jessi replied. When Jessi lowered the camera, tears ran down her cheeks. “I wasn’t sure this would ever happen for Aaron.”

“Well, I doubted Julian would ever settle down. He has been so different since he met Aaron.”

After a couple more shots they all went back to the house. They didn’t want the guests to see them before the actual wedding. 

While the grooms waited in the house, Brian and Justin took a quiet moment to talk to Aaron and Julian. The older men had dressed the same. They wore khaki pants and white button down shirts. They had ties of deep blue.

“You both look so happy,” Justin said as he walked up to the couple and kissed each on the cheek and then stepped back where Brian put an arm around his waist and pulled him close to his side and kissed his temple.

Brian spoke, “We never talked about your honeymoon. Do you have plans for tonight?”

“We aren’t going anywhere tonight. I think we'll just sleep in Gus’ old room until Terry and Griff have completely moved out. You don’t mind, do you?” Aaron asked.

“You are always welcome here,” Brian said. “If you don’t like that house just let us know and we can get someone in to make changes.”

“We may have a few but, dad, we just moved back from Africa.  Anything is bigger than those little apartments and this place is so big, we won’t be running into each other unless we want to.”

“So no honeymoon?” Justin asked.

“Terry offered us their yacht when they get it.” Julian continued, “I can’t wait to see Hawkin’s Island.”

“We are hoping to spend a couple weeks on the island and then some time on the yacht.  I haven’t seen Aunt Molly and Uncle Danial and their kids in too long. “I am hoping they will be home while I’m there. I know they are off island for school part of the time. We’ll probably be gone for about a month.”

“That sounds like a perfect honeymoon,” Justin commented. “You know we love you both.”

“We know, Dad,” Aaron smiled at his fathers.  “None of us have ever doubted you love us.”

It was about time for the ceremony.  Once people had started arriving, Brian and Justin, along with Julian’s parents, moved among the guests making everyone feel welcome. Joseph played violin when it was time for the ceremony to start and people sat down. Kevin and Gus walked down the aisle together and then turned to watch Victoria, with baby Kate in her arms, move down to join them.  At the end she handed the sleeping baby to Fi and moved to the side opposite of Gus.

Aaron and Julian had left the shelter of the house when the music had started.  “Aaron, I didn’t rush you, did I?” Julian asked, looking straight ahead, not wanting to meet his eyes.

“No, Julian. We had talked about getting married sometime and I have no doubt I want to be with you the rest of my life. I’ve been thinking about what Dad Brian said earlier.  I loved Teddy so much but when I am with you, there is a passion Teddy and I never had.”

They heard the music change and Julian crooked his arm and Aaron took it. “I love you, Aaron.”

“I love you, too, Julian.”

The ceremony was short but very meaningful.  Kevin spoke of the examples both men had in their families.  They knew what real love was and they knew that kind of love lasted a lifetime. Even if the love was lost, the heart and mind knew how to adapt and make room for a new love. He talked about the strength they had when they worked and lived as a team.

Then it was time for their vows. Aaron spoke first, “Julian, the friendship you offered me in Africa showed me what a genuine person you are. Even when I couldn’t admit to myself that I loved you, your patience and acceptance of me, as I am, gave me the confidence to love again.” Aaron smiled at Julian and then it was Julian’s turn.

“Aaron, I think I fell in love with you the day I saw you.  You drew me in with the first smile and as I watched you interact while you worked on the animals and interacting with the owners, your heart shone through. I know your heart has lost before and I don’t want you to forget Teddy. He helped make you who you are and I thank him for that.  Now, I  can’t wait to see what we will learn together in the next 50 or 60 years.”

When Julian had finished, Kevin asked them together, “Aaron and Julian, your love shines through with just a look. And the words you have already said answer the come questions asked at weddings. So please just answer this, Julian and Aaron, with your declaration of love, do you promise to always be open and honest in your life together, sharing the good and the bad, offering and accepting support from the other.”

After each of the men had said they would, Kevin smiled and said, “You may now kiss your husband.” Aaron and Julian kissed and turned to face the guests. “Where there were two households, let there be one home. Let the celebration begin.”

The grooms went row by row, talking to first their families and then the remainder of the guests.  Aaron introduced them to Julian as they went. Aaron made sure he told Julian enough about each of them that Julian would start to get to know his new neighbors and possible patients.

The sun was getting lower in the sky as everyone mingled as they ate appetizers and drank champagne. Other than Julian’s parents, all the guests were acquainted with each other and they made the Brits feel very welcome. 

As the sun sank below the mountains and sky turned to purples and orange, everyone staying for dinner moved inside. Aaron grabbed Julian’s hand as they entered the house and, not sure where Aaron was going, he followed Aaron up a back staircase he hadn’t noticed before. They ended upstairs near their bedroom and that was where Aaron was heading. Once they were inside the bedroom, Aaron shut the door and then wrapped his arms around his husband and kissed him, pressing the full length of his body against Julian’s. Julian pulled him even closer and deepened the kiss even more. By the time they separated they both were breathless. “You know we need to go join the dinner,” Julian said.

“I know. I just didn’t want to have to wait for that until we were alone later tonight,” Aaron said, laying his head on Julian’s shoulder as he regained his composure. 

“You know, we never did decide what last name we would use,” Julian commented.

“Do you mind if we each keep our own?” Aaron said, looking at Julian’s face to see his reaction.

“I don’t mind at all.  Before we have kids, we can decide what their last name will be but we both received our Doctorates using our last names. I think it is best to keep them.”

Aaron sighed, “I’m glad you agree.  I would hate to have to pick one of my last names. I know my dads would understand but it would be hard to decide what to do.”

“Hey, you in there?” Gus’ voice came through the door. “Dinner is ready and we need the happy couple.”

“We’re on our way.”

Gus opened the door and saw them, still in an embrace.  “Have I told you how happy I am that you two are going to be living here. I’ve missed you, Aaron.”

“I’ve missed you, too, Gus. I’m glad we’re going to be here to watch little Katie grow up.”

“Come on, guys, I smell Emma’s cooking.  I didn’t realize I was hungry until now,” Julian said as the three of them headed toward the stairs.

The rest of the evening was relaxing and enjoyable. Emma had outdone herself with the meal.  She had so many dishes that no one could try them all and then, out of nowhere, a wedding cake appeared. Jessi insisted they cut the cake so she could get pictures of them doing so.  They fed each other but they didn’t smash it in each other’s face like so many couples do. 

As everyone was eating the strawberry filled layer cake along with some white wine or coffee, Brian and Justin came over to Aaron and Julian. “How long do you plan to hang out around here?” Brian asked. “We would have been …”

“Brian, I don’t think these two need a picture in their head. Guys, we wanted to catch you before you slipped upstairs.  You two are going to use our suite until you move into your place.  Terry said he would be out the day after tomorrow and then we will have the place cleaned but you should be able to move there in a few days.”

“Dads, we don’t need to kick you out. The room upstairs is fine.”

“I wouldn’t argue with him,” Brian said. “You know when he has made up his mind it isn’t going to be changed. Your suitcases have been moved downstairs already.  If you want to use the hot tub, no one will be back there and of course the bathtub is also an option.”

Aaron hugged both of his fathers at once. “Thank you for all of this. This was all a lot of work with a four day warning.”

When Aaron stepped back, Brian and Justin each hugged Julian. “We are so glad to have you part of the family, Julian,” Justin said. 

Brian stepped up and in a commanding voice said, “Hey all, the happy couple is going to be leaving a party to start their married life together.” 

Before Brian could continue, Justin spoke up, “I think Aaron and Julian would like to say something to all of you.”

“We would,” Aaron started. “Thanks for coming to celebrate with us. Emma, thank you for all the work you did in the last few days.” Aaron and Julian walked over and each gave her a hug. “And to the Remingtons, thank you for such a warm welcome to the family.”

“Now you two have done everything expected. Get out of here,” Justin said. As Julian took Aaron’s hand they headed out of the great room with everyone behind them calling out best wishes.

Aaron and Julian strode into the bedroom and together walked to the bed and dropped back onto it. They lay silently for several minutes, both lost in their own thoughts. Aaron rolled on his side and looked at Julian, “So, what should we do now? It’s too early to go to sleep.”

Julian rolled to face him, “Um, I can think of a few things we could do.” He ran his hand over Aaron’s fly.

Aaron kissed him and said, “Oh, I hadn’t forgotten that. We could go out to the hot tub or try out that big slipper tub in the bathroom.” Aaron began to unbutton Julian’s shirt.

“Oh, I like the way you think, oh husband of mine. You start the water since I am not sure I know how to handle that fancy plumbing and I will find us something to drink in the mini bar.”

Brian and Justin sat in an overstuffed chair in the kitchen. The house was quiet for the first time all day. Brian had poured them each a glass of bourbon and Aaron had turned on some music before they sat down.

“Where did Jessi go?  The house wouldn’t be this quiet if she was still here.” Brian wrapped his free arm around Justin and kissed his temple.

“She took Victoria over to Fi and Gus’ house.  Victoria has spent quite a bit of time in Ireland and she and Fi wanted to talk more.” Aaron said before turning to Brian and putting his free hand on his cheek he brought his mouth to Brian’s. Parting Aaron’s lips with his tongue, it slipped in and danced with Aaron’s. They both managed to set their glasses down so both arms and hands were free to travel across skin and cloth. When Aaron sat back down and they both picked up their glass again.

“With Aaron married, we only have one child unattached,” Justin thought out loud.

“I’m not sure Jessi will ever settle down. She seems to be enjoying her life as it is.  I don’t think she has ever had to look for company. Our girl could always attract a crowd,” Brian laughed a bit.  “I sometimes wonder if we should worry about her.”

“We’ll always worry about our kids, even when they have kids.  That’s just the story of life.” Justin stood and reached for Brian’s hand and he stood up next to him.  Justin turned toward Brian and said, “Are you still glad we decided to do life together?”

“Justin Taylor-Kinney, I can’t fathom my life without you and our kids, and now a grandbaby. You and I realized years ago that we need each other to be who we are. That isn’t going to change.” After kissing Justin once more he said, “Do you think they chose the hot tub or the slipper tub?”

“The slipper tub. I would bet the ranch on that.”

“How come you are so sure of that?”

“Because right now, all I can think of is making love with you in that big tub.”

“I know it isn’t as exciting as the tub, but do you think making love in the bed will suffice?”

“Brian, making love with you anywhere, anytime, is all the adventure I will ever need.”

Aaron stood by the French doors overlooking the hot tub.  He and Julian had made love in the tub twice and then once more in bed before they had drifted off but it was now after 2:00 a.m. He had woken up and felt restless. Aaron was tired and could hear the soft snoring of his husband but that wasn’t keeping him awake.

He stared into the darkness and allowed him to think about Teddy for the first time that day. He could almost hear Teddy talking about the wedding.  Teddy had loved weddings. They had often talked about the wedding they would have, and as he thought about it, his marriage to Julian couldn’t have been more different than what they had talked about.

Aaron was so deep in thought he hadn’t noticed that Julian was no longer snoring. Aaron jumped just a bit but then leaned back against Julian. “I didn’t wake you, did I?”

Julian kissed his neck and said, “No, I just reached for you and found an empty void. Is it Teddy?”

“I hadn’t thought about him all day but when I woke and was restless he came into my mind. I hoped if I just got up I wouldn’t wake you.” Aaron turned in Julian’s arms and placed his hands on Julian’s face. Teddy was my past and you are my future.” Aaron pressed his lips against Julian’s and Julian held him tightly as they kissed. Aaron pulled back a little and yawned deeply. “Sorry, love. I guess I am ready to try to sleep again but I think I might need to...” Aaron pressed his pelvis against Julian’s.

“I'm sure I can help you out with that now, and for the rest of our lives.” Julian placed Aaron’s hands around his neck and then lifted him off the ground and moved the few steps to the bed. “I love you, Aaron.”

“And I love you.” Aaron pulled Julian down and no more words were needed.


The End

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