It’s time for another flash fiction. And this month I’m kinda stumped, lol. I mean, it’s a perfectly normal picture. One that could launch a thousand different stories. And yet… Maybe it’s because I’m engrossed in my current project—finishing up the next Tombstone book. So my head is filled with shifters and werewolves. And this image—so not one that screams paranormal, lol. At least not to me. Zombies, maybe…yeah, I watched the season finale of Walking Dead. Can’t you just picture them getting mauled by fifty walkers? But I digress.
Anyway, in an effort not to wimp out, here’s my photo inspired story. Be it what it may. And yes, cop-out comes to mind. But at least I’ve written something…and not two paragraphs where they get eaten by the undead.
Aaron groaned inwardly as the closing scene of the movie cut through the darkness. The couple stood in the middle of a deserted road, silhouettes backlit by the moon. A sappy love song played in the background as the man cupped the woman’s head, tugging her in for a searing kiss.
He shifted restlessly in his seat, sparing a quick glance at Lincoln. Aaron had only agreed to come to the damn movies because Linc had shown up at his doorstep and threatened to call Aaron’s parents if he didn’t venture beyond the front porch. Do something other than sleep and drink. Just their luck, the action film Linc had promised they’d watch had been sold out, and they’d ended up in the chick-flick from hell. Linc had merely shrugged, claiming anything was better than Aaron simply sitting on the damn couch…staring at nothing.
Linc elbowed him, drawing his attention. “See? It wasn’t that bad.”
Aaron shoved his hand through his hair. “Right. Sitting here watching that couple fall in love on screen was just what the doctor ordered. Thanks, buddy. I feel so much better, now.”
Linc sighed. “While I’ll admit the choice of film wasn’t the best, it beats sitting in your damn boxers sharing peanut butter off the spoon with your dog.”
“Rex is an excellent companion. He doesn’t nag, doesn’t judge, and I get the lion’s share of the food.”
“Do you even hear yourself? It’s sad, bro. Real sad.”
Aaron looked away, scrubbing his hand down his face. Rough stubble scratched at his skin. He hadn’t shaved in a week. Not since he’d come home two days early from his three-month tour in Antarctica to find his lover in bed with another man. And his life had gone in the fucking shitter.
He let his head fall back against the seat as he slumped down in it. “I’m dealing.”
“No, you’re hiding. Spiraling. Just about anything but dealing.”
He glared at Lincoln. The man had been his friend since fifth grade. One of the few he had left from that part of his life. And the only person who knew how much Aaron had struggled with his decision to take the post, knowing he was putting his personal life at risk. But damn it…it’d been the opportunity of a lifetime. Something he thought Garret had understood and supported.
Of course, Aaron knew better, now. That Garret’s easy acceptance had been largely due to the fact he’d been sleeping around. That their lack of a sex life for the month prior to Aaron’s departure had been more than inconvenient timing or fatigue. That they’d been messed up long before he’d jumped on an airplane heading south.
Lincoln nudged him. “Come on. We’ll grab some pizza and beer and go back to my place. Give you a change of scenery.”
Aaron’s stomach flip-flopped at the thought, he just wasn’t sure if it was fear or anticipation. “What about Brian? He’s not exactly my biggest fan.”
“Don’t worry about Brian.”
“Dude. He accused me of trying to undermine your relationship. He said, and I quote, “I was secretly trying to split you two up so I could finally make a move,” end quote. He’ll flip if I show up unannounced.”
Lincoln’s expression sobered as he leaned forward in his seat, elbows braced on his knees. He took a few deep breaths then glanced at Aaron. “Brian’s gone.”
Aaron frowned. “Gone? You never mentioned he’d taken another assignment. Where’d the magazine send him this time? New Orleans to cover Mardi Gras?”
“Honestly? I don’t know. Care even less. He’s gone, gone, Aaron. I kicked him out.”
A rush of blood pounded through Aaron’s ears, his heart clamping tight in his chest. “You did what, now?”
Lincoln threaded his hands behind his neck as he heaved out a slow breath. “You were right. Bastard was using me to make connections. Climb some fucking ladder at work. As soon as he got that promotion, he changed. Started staying out late, coming home drunk, his clothes reeking of Axe. When I confronted him about it, he told me I was imagining things. That I was just jealous of his success.” Linc snorted. “Can you believe that? I got him the damn job to begin with, but I’m the jealous one.” He shook his head. “I’m just embarrassed I didn’t see it before. That I was so damn blind.”
Aaron placed his hand on Linc’s shoulder. “Why didn’t you tell me sooner?”
“Are you serious? Took me four days to get you to open the damn door. Another three to get you to leave the house. Talking has been the last thing on your mind.”
“I was angry. Hurt. Fuck, still am. But I’d like to think I would have pulled my head out of my ass long enough to be there for you.” He leaned closer. “How long?”
“Shortly after you left.”
Aaron pushed to his feet, staring down at his best friend. Hell, the man was so much more. He just hadn’t realized it until he’d spent three months removed from everything. Everyone. “You’ve been dealing with this for nearly three months and never said a damn thing? What about all those times we talked on the phone? The couple of video chats we managed? I wasn’t ‘spiralling’ then. Wasn’t too engrossed in my own hardships, then, to lend an ear…buddy.”
Lincoln stood, nearly banging into Arron’s chest. “Don’t you think I wanted to tell you? Fuck, to tell someone? But I know you. If I’d even hinted that Brian and I had split, you would have jumped on a damn plane and hauled your ass home. I couldn’t let you do that. Being part of that research team was too big of an opportunity for you to throw it away because I got my damn heart broken.”
“Don’t you think that was my choice to make?”
“Not this time.” He gave Aaron a shove. “Come on. I’m hungry and the staff is staring at us as if we’re freaks.”
“Hate to break it to you, Linc, but you are.”
Aaron smiled, following Lincoln back to his car—staring out the window as Lincoln drove through town, stopping at some two-bit pizza place to grab some food while Aaron darted across the street to get beer. Neither spoke until they’d settled on Lincoln’s couch, an old movie playing on the television.
Aaron nudged his friend. “You okay?”
Lincoln chuckled. “I thought I was supposed to be cheering you up? Making sure you didn’t fall off the deep end.”
He shrugged. “Not that I want to admit it, but…I think I knew we were over before I left. That a part of me took that job as a way of distancing myself. Preparing for the inevitable, if you will. Besides, I never realized how wrong the bastard was for me until he was gone. Sometimes we’re just too close to see what’s right in front of us, ya know?”
Linc’s jaw clenched, his focus dropping to Aaron’s mouth then back up. He seemed to take a shaky breath before flashing a fake smile. “Trust me. I’ve spent the last few months wondering what I ever saw in the creep. I should have listened to you.”
“That’s not what I meant, Linc, and you know it. And I seem to recall you mentioning that Garret was a player. That guys like him didn’t stay. But as usual, I needed to find out the hard way.”
“Garret’s an ass to think he’ll do better.”
“And Brian wouldn’t know a good thing if it bit him in the ass.” Aaron grinned. “You didn’t actually bite him in the ass, did you? Because, dude, that would be so ironic.”
Lincoln shook his head. “And to think I chose to be your friend. What was I thinking?”
“That we’re a pretty damn good team? That I’d be fucking lost without you?”
Lincoln’s face paled, a rough breath sounding between them. He looked away, stumbling to his feet before heading to the kitchen. “I need another beer. You want one?”
Aaron trailed after him, heart thrashing in his chest. He waited until Lincoln turned before making his move, trapping the man against the counter. Lincoln inhaled sharply, the raspy sound only feeding Aaron’s resolve.
He leaned in, praying he wasn’t destroying the only relationship he’d ever had worth saving. “Do you want to know the real reason I didn’t answer my damn door? Why I’ve been fighting to keep you out? I knew I wouldn’t be able to keep my distance. That after everything that happened, I was too damn raw to keep lying to you. Pretending that you’re nothing more than a friend. Because if there’s one thing that damn tour made me realize, it’s that there’s only one person I can’t live without. And I’m scared to death of making the biggest mistake of my life, and having him walk away.”
Lincoln stared at him, his breath rasping between them. Aaron held his ground, wondering if he’d just ruined twenty years of friendship when a slow smile curved Linc’s mouth.
The man leaned forward, stopping when his lips brushed against Aaron’s. “About fucking time.”
And that’s it for me. Go check out the other ladies. I know they have some amazing tales to tell.