Ryan got a big surprise last week when he listened to Salvation play, especially when he learned that Ben composed the music and the lyrics. There is no doubt in his mind that he's still in love with Ben, even if he isn't sure what to do right now. But things have changed, right? They're both older now. See what's going on in this week's chapter of In Pieces. Then go visit the other Briefers and see what they're up to! Their links follow my tale! Enjoy!
In Pieces #16 (5.4)
By the time Ryan reached his room, he decided sitting down was not only a good idea, it was required. He grabbed his laptop from his luggage and tossed it on one of the beds, then took a shaky seat beside it while he collected his thoughts. Everything seemed to be catching up with him at once. His dad’s death and funeral. Getting a new job and having to postpone his first day. The flight to New Orleans. And the biggest shock of all—running into the person he’d wanted to see more than anything in the world.
Cassie would flip when she heard the news. She’d be very happy for him too, he knew. He’d confided in her as much as he dare reveal about his feelings for Ben. He’d still been sorting everything out at the time Ben had disappeared. Cassie was very perceptive about things like that, as well as being very kind-hearted. No wonder his dad had been drawn to her. She never sat in judgment on him, simply listened, and provided a strong shoulder to cry on, when needed. If Ryan was into women—and if she hadn’t been his stepmother—he could see himself with Cassie. But his heart belonged to Ben, and had for a long time.
Not that he hadn’t dated anyone after Ben left. He was only human, after all. There’d been a few guys over the last ten years. Nothing serious. And nothing physical. That had usually been the kicker. The straw that broke the camel’s back. Not like Ryan hadn’t been interested, or hadn’t tried to do what he thought they wanted. But his body refused to cooperate, as if it knew better and wouldn’t settle for second-best. His few boyfriends had given up in frustration and a certain amount of disgust. Some belittled him for his failure to properly respond to their charms—in blunt terms, for not being able to get it up with them— and some accused him of being everything from a eunuch to asexual or a woman in disguise.
The truth of the matter was that in the privacy of his bedroom, Ryan had no problem in getting hard… when he thought of Ben. And that was the problem. No one else moved him the way Ben had, and his heart refused to cooperate, his body following close behind. Eventually, he gave up and resigned himself to a solitary existence.
And now here Ben was. Surely that was some kind of a sign that they were meant to be?
Even in the short time since their reunion, it was more than obvious to Ryan that Ben felt the connection between them as much as ever. Things had changed drastically, but in a good way. Ben wasn’t fifteen any more, and the three year gap in their ages wasn’t nearly as wide as it had been then. Back then, Ryan had been all too aware that Ben was still young—a minor, in the eyes of the law, and in Missouri they spelled that statutory—so nothing had happened between them.
Nothing except for a whole lot of kissing, furtive glances, and deep sighs. And “accidental” touches which frustrated far more than they satisfied. Torture of the sweetest variety, which all ended abruptly the morning Ryan arose to find Ben gone, leaving him with an unbearable pain in his heart. One he’d had to deal with alone, since he couldn’t burden his dad with it. Not when Dad was going through so much himself, with the loss of his second wife. So Ryan pushed everything deep inside and focused on being there for his dad. It wasn’t until Cassie came into their lives that he was able to find any relief from his pain. That and writing his book. How was he to know that Brothers would be the key to their reunion?
So what was he so freaked out about? Ben was here, they were together. He was going to write another book. Everything he’d ever wanted in his life seemed to be coming true for both of them.
He knew what was bothering him, without having to analyze the question too deeply. If he were to be honest with himself, he was afraid all of this would turn out to be an illusion. A temporary fix for what ailed him. One that would only end with Ben disappearing again… maybe for good.
Ryan didn’t think he could take another heartbreak.
The very thought was enough to bring tears to Ryan’s eyes, along with a sudden trembling. He squeezed his eyes shut, and worked at controlling his breathing. Stay calm, everything’s going to be all right. He couldn’t return to Ben until he overcame this, whatever this was. He didn’t want Ben to think he doubted them in any way. He only wanted what he had always wanted— to make Ben happy. But he had to be in his life to do that, right?
What was that? He raised his head in alarm. Was that a door? Had Ben come to see what was taking him so long? Ryan hastily swiped at his eyes and cheeks. He began to formulate excuses in his mind for what he was doing, although he wasn’t sure any of them made sense. Jumping up, he grabbed his laptop and took deep even breaths.
Come on, dude, Ben’s waiting. Don’t let him see me like this.
“Well, well, and who do we have here, you little cutie?”
to be continued
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