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    Renee Stevens
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They All Fall Down - 1. They All Fall Down

Greg stretched out on the couch, a blanket covering his lap as the wind howled outside. If the lights kept flickering, he would have to go down to the basement and find his battery operated lanterns. With it only being early evening, he really didn’t want to end up spending the majority of the night in the dark. He shoved the blanket off his lap and walked to the large bay window directly across from him. Even in the winter darkness he could see the large pine tree in his front yard weaving back and forth with the strength of the storm.

He turned away from the window and headed down the stairs into the half basement and then into the room just off the more formal looking living room to his storage area. He dug through the multitude of camping equipment until he found the two lanterns he used when he was camping. At least if the power did go out he would have some light.

He headed back up the stairs and had just settled on the couch again when the lights flickered again before going completely out, shrouding the room in complete darkness. Well, so much for watching TV, or even surfing the internet for that matter. With the power out, his router wouldn’t be working either. He reached out and flicked on one of the lanterns before slipping off the couch again and carrying it across the room to the big bookcase situated next to the entertainment center, on the opposite side of the wood burning stove.

He snagged the book he’d been reading and once more settled on the couch, the lantern providing enough light to read as he lost himself in the world the author had created. It wasn’t until the cold began to penetrate under the blanket that he realized he should probably build a fire in the wood stove before the temperature dropped even more than it already had. Best case scenario, he’d get the fire built and the power would come back on, worst case he’d be using the wood stove to stay warm through the night. At least he had the option, because he didn’t trust using gas heaters, or even the majority of space heaters. Too many stories of them catching on fire or the fumes of a gas heater poisoning the air and killing people.

Within a few minutes he had a nice fire in the stove and shut the dampers part way. He grabbed the little fan he’d bought and set it on top of the stove and watched as it started spinning, spreading the heat much quicker than it would on its own. He’d never really understood how it worked, but it did. All he had to do was set the cast iron base on top of the stove and the heat kept the blade spinning. It worked, and that was the important thing.

He glanced at his watch, the hands just slightly past the eight thirty position and sighed at the still early hour. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d gone to bed before midnight, but it looked like that’s what would happen tonight. Instead of going up the stairs to his bedroom, he made himself comfortable on the couch. While the heat would slowly drift up the stairs, it would still be cold up there and it would be easier to stoke the fire if he stayed downstairs. With that thought in mind, he settled down for the night. It was nights like this that made him wish he had someone to cuddle up with while he waited out the storm.

***

Greg stared out the front window, cradling a cup of coffee in his hands, thankful that the power had come back on at some point during the night, as he surveyed the damage to his front yard. He blinked to clear his vision; sure that what he was seeing had to be a mirage, or something. That pine tree had been in his front yard when he’d bought the house, and who knew how long it had been there before then. It had been huge and while he had debated having it removed countless times, he had never quite been able to bring himself to do it. Nature had taken the decision out of his hands, and the big tree was gone.

Well, not really gone, but it would be. The ninety mile per hour winds that had blown throughout the night had ripped the towering pine out of the ground, leaving it lying on its side, the heavy roots lying nearly parallel with the ground. How the hell had it missed hitting the house? If it hadn’t been able to survive the storm, he didn’t hold out much hope for the rest of the pines that essentially drew a line around his property.

Well, waiting to find out the scope of the damage wasn’t doing him any good; he may as well go out and find out for sure just what sort of cleanup was going to be required in the aftermath of the storm. He slipped his stockinged feet into his shoes and grabbed his winter coat off the hook by the door and headed outside, the front door slamming behind him.

He glanced towards his neighbor’s house and groaned at the sight of all the trees that separated them. It almost looked like a bulldozer had taken on the entire row of trees, but not a single trunk had snapped. Instead, each tree looked as though it had been pushed over, their root systems having been jerked out of the ground.

He slowly walked the entire perimeter of his yard, grimacing at the sight of each tree before looking up at the giant aspen that still stood strong. Out of all of the trees, it looked to be the only one that had survived the storm. It stood tall and proud amidst the sea of downed pines, and how it came through unscathed he couldn’t figure out. It had easily been taller than even the pine tree in his front yard had been. While he didn’t know much about trees, he could only assume that maybe its root system went deeper into the ground than the pines.

He shook his head and headed back inside to call the office and let them know he wouldn’t be in today. As soon as businesses opened up, he’d have to be on the phone to try and find a cleanup crew that could come and cut up the many pines and haul them away. If they weren’t all still very much alive he would have done it himself, one tree at a time, and used the wood for his stove, but green wood didn’t burn very well and didn’t put out much heat even once it got burning. Plus, he wasn’t entirely sure his chainsaw would last through cutting up nearly a dozen green pines, and on top of that, he really didn’t want to have to haul it all away.

Already forming a list in his mind of what needed to be done; he headed inside and dialed the office to leave a message with the answering service that he wouldn’t be in. Once that was done, he pulled out the phone book and started searching for someone to cut up and haul away the trees. Not that he’d be able to call them just yet, he seriously doubted that anyone would be open considering it was only seven o’clock in the morning, but at least he could get an idea of who to call.

He picked half a dozen places and wrote their names and numbers down on a legal pad before heading up the stairs to take a shower and wait for the places to open.

***

“R & B Landscaping, this is Susan, how can I help you?”

“Hi Susan, my name is Greg Kippen, the storm last night uprooted about a dozen trees in my yard and I was wondering if it would be possible to have someone come out and give me a quote on their removal?” Greg crossed his fingers as he waited for an answer. He’d already called four other places and all of them had already been swamped by calls for the same thing.

“I’m sorry to hear about the trees and we’d be happy to come out and take a look later this morning, if that would suit your needs.”

“That would be perfect.” Greg breathed a sigh of relief. “How soon would you be able to start removing them?”

“Well, we would have someone come out and take a look, and then from there they would be able to give you an idea of when they could start and how long it might take. What time would be suitable for someone to come out?”

“The earlier the better.” Greg could hear typing in the background as the woman on the other end of the line paused.

“I could have someone there at about ten thirty, would that work?”

“That’s fine; I’ll be here all morning.” Greg gave her his address and listened while she reminded him that someone would be by at ten thirty before thanking him and hanging up.

With nothing to do until the landscapers showed up, he settled back on the couch with his book. He had nearly finished when he saw a pickup pull into his driveway and heard the slam of a door. He stood and lay the book face down on the coffee table and threw on his coat before going out in the cold.

He stopped on the stoop and stared at the man approaching him, clipboard in hand, and resisted the urge to reach up to make sure he wasn’t drooling. He swept his gaze completely over the guy, from the short, slightly wavy, light brown hair all the way down to the winter boots encompassing the guy’s feet.

“You must be Greg.” The boots stopped in front of him and Greg could feel the heat rushing to his face as he jerked up to look into the guy’s green eyes. “I’m Brian, from R & B Landscaping. Looks like the storm really did a number on your lawn.”

“Guess you could say that.” Greg smiled and held out a hand. The simple feel of Brian’s hand in his sent shivers coursing through his body and he struggled not to jerk free as he bit back a chuckle. Here his entire yard was a mess and he was perving on the landscaping guy.

“Why don’t you show me what all needs to be done and then we can go from there.”

“Sure.” Greg led the way through the couple inches of snow and showed Brian around the yard. He pointed out the downed trees, despite the fact that it was fairly obvious which ones would need removed.

At one point he thought he heard Brian muttering something to himself, but ignored it as he continued showing the guy around. Once they had made a complete circuit of the yard and Brian had made notes on his clipboard, he led the way inside and into the kitchen.

“Go ahead and have a seat. Can I get you something to drink? Coffee? A soda?” Greg walked over to the coffee and poured himself another cup to help him warm up after being out in the chilly morning air. Even this late in the morning the temperature was still sitting in the single digits.

“Coffee would be great.” Brian sat and turned his attention to his clipboard.

“I drink mine black, but I have milk or sugar if you need it.” Greg poured a second cup and carried it over to the table, setting it carefully on the lacquered top.

“Black is fine.” Brian took a sip and smiled at him, the skin around his eyes crinkling just the slightest bit.

“So…” Greg slid in the chair opposite Brian and cradled his cup in his hands, “how much is all this going to set me back?”

“Well, that depends on what all you would like us to do with the downed trees. If you just want them cut up and hauled away, then this is what you’re looking at.” Brian flipped through the pages on the clipboard. He circled a figure before sliding the paper across the table to Greg.

Greg looked at the number and swallowed, the mouthful of coffee he had just taken went down the wrong way and he immediately started coughing. He had known that it wasn’t going to be cheap, but he had never thought it was going to cost that much. He mentally went through his finances and sighed as he realized that once again, the vacation he had been looking forward to was out the window, again. Seemed like every time he had almost enough saved, something happened to wipe out his savings. While the tree removal wouldn’t completely deplete his account, it would come really close.

“I know that seems like a lot, but that includes a truckload of soil to fill in the holes left by the roots.” Brian leaned back in the chair and took another swig out of his cup. “We’ll saw up all the downed trees, clean up all the debris, haul it all away, and then fill the holes.”

“So, in the end, I’ll have these big splotchy dirt areas?” Greg grimaced at the vision of what his lawn would look like come spring, once the snow had melted.

“Normally I would suggest planting a few shrubs in place of the trees, or put sod over the spots, but with the time of year…” Brian trailed off and Greg didn’t have to ask what he meant.

Landscaping the area with new bushes would be the ideal solution, but with it being winter, there was little chance that they’d survive. It was an idea that he could look into more once spring hit, but until then, at least the snow would keep the bare spots hidden. He glanced down at the paper in front of him one more time before turning his attention back to Brian.

“How long do you think the clean-up will take, from start to finish?” Greg watched Brian’s hand as the other man made yet another notation on one of the papers attached to the clipboard. He distinctly remembered how that hand had felt in his own less than an hour ago. Even though the contact had been brief, he’d been able to feel the calluses in the work roughened hands. Hands that obviously didn’t leave the hands on work to someone else. How would those hands feel on various parts of his body? His breath hitched and Greg was jerked out of his reverie by the sound of Brian’s voice.

“Hey, you okay?”

Greg ducked his head, unsure whether or not the desire he was feeling would show in his eyes. He really needed to get his shit together and quit imagining things that could never be. “Yeah, sorry about that. Just lost in thought.” He forced himself to meet Brian’s gaze and hoped he wouldn’t give anything he was feeling away.

Brian looked at him doubtfully, but apparently decided not to push the issue. “As I was saying; depending on the weather, a three man crew could have the job completed in three to four days, not counting Sundays.” Brian smiled at him and Greg’s thoughts immediately went to how those full lips would feel on his own.

“I’m sorry, but could you excuse me for just a moment?” Greg pushed his chair back and at the nod from the other man he walked up the stairs and shut the bathroom door. “C’mon man, pull yourself together!” Greg looked at himself in the mirror and could see the red flush covering his face and the desire in his eyes.

He took a moment to compose himself and turned the faucet on cold before splashing it over his face and drying it with a towel. After a deep breath he headed back downstairs. He glanced over Brian’s shoulder on his way past and was perplexed by the scribbled notes. He had expected them to be something about the trees that needed to be removed, but instead, ‘is he or isn’t he’ was written multiple times with a big ole question mark. He only got a brief look since Brian flipped to a different page as soon as he realized he was no longer alone. It was peculiar, but could mean anything, and probably not what he thought it might. Greg pushed it to the back of his mind as he took his seat once more.

“Sorry about that.” Greg lifted his cup to his lips and maybe it was only because he was watching closer, but he could have sworn that Brian’s eyes followed the cup and lingered on his lips for just a moment before darting away. Interesting. “You were saying about the weather? How will this weekend’s forecasted weather affect the timing?” He would need to call the office and take emergency vacation in order to be there when the crew was.

Brian noticeably swallowed before answering. “Providing the storm doesn’t hit until tomorrow night like the forecast says?” Greg nodded. “Well, since today is Thursday, we’d start clearing the trees tomorrow morning. If the storm lasts through Saturday like it’s supposed to, we’d be looking at Tuesday afternoon or Wednesday morning before we would be done.”

“So, if the storm passes us by, theoretically you could be done Monday afternoon or Tuesday morning?” Greg found himself hoping that the storm hit exactly as forecasted. He didn’t want more damn snow, but if it meant an extra day of Brian being there, he wouldn’t complain. It dawned on him that Brian had never said he would be on the crew that would do the clean-up.

“Theoretically, yes. If the storm passes us over, we would be here from nine to four each day, with an hour for lunch, until the job is done.” Brian wrote something else down and Greg wished for another look at the papers. Anything to help him figure the guy seated across from him out.

“Where do I sign?”

***

Greg glared at the large fluffy flakes of snow currently falling from the sky. When he’d gone to bed last night, the storm had yet to hit and he’d hoped that maybe it would hold off until at least the afternoon. He’d been surprised at the amount of debris Brian’s crew had managed to clear the day before and had been looking forward to having Brian at his house again today. Yep, Brian had headed up the crew that had come to perform the clean-up of his yard, and he couldn’t have been happier. At least until he woke up this morning and realized that the storm had hit overnight. The realization that he wouldn’t see Brian until Monday killed the buzz he’d had when he’d gotten up this morning, before he had looked outside.

“Stupid weather,” he muttered. He flopped onto the couch and turned the television to a news channel. Maybe it would clear up early enough that the crew would show up for the afternoon. His hopes were immediately dashed by the weathergirl forecasting the storm to go well into the night before ending during the early hours of Sunday morning.

With nothing else to do, he stoked up the fire in the wood stove and turned his Xbox on before popping in a game. It looked like he was going to spend the day, or at least part of it, shooting enemy aliens determined to take over the planet. Not what he’d hoped for the day, but at the very least it would let him vent out his frustration.

He lost himself in the battle until a knock sounded on his front door, just seconds before the little cuckoo clock hanging on the wall struck nine. He paused the game and got to his feet, glancing out the window on his way to the door. He gaped at the sight of an R & B Landscaping truck parked in his driveway.

He hurried just a little quicker and flung open the front door, smiling at the sight of Brian standing on his doorstep, flakes of snow dusting his light brown hair and the shoulders of his jacket. The chill of the morning penetrated his skin, reminding him of his choice to forgo a shirt when he’d realized the crews wouldn’t be coming. He stepped back and motioned Brian in before closing the door against the cold winter air and crossed his arms, rubbing his hands over his biceps in an unconscious effort to warm them up.

“Morning, Greg.” Brian’s gaze seemed to be focused on his chest.

Greg glanced down at his body, taking in the sight of his nipples, pebbled from the cold, and the smattering of hair covering his chest. He looked back up at Brian’s face and nearly groaned as he was the other man’s tongue slip out and take a swipe across his lips. “Morning Brian.”

Brian jumped a little at the sound of his voice and jerked his gaze up to meet Greg’s. He blinked a few times and then visibly shook himself, sending little flakes of white floating to the floor. . “It’s really coming down out there.”

“Yeah, it is.” Greg was sure he had a stupefied look on his face as he glanced from Brian to the door and back again. “What are you doing here?” Greg clamped his mouth shut, hoping against hope that he had just thought those last words and hadn’t actually voiced them aloud. Not only had it been rude, but it could make Brian think he wasn’t welcome, which was the last thing Greg wanted him to feel.

“Oh, I was just out and about and thought I’d stop by to let you know that the crew wouldn’t be showing up today.”

“Well, come on in and make yourself comfortable.” Greg walked the few feet back to the couch, half expecting Brian to either take the chair or the loveseat across the room. He gulped when Brian sat down close enough that their jean clad thighs nearly brushed against each other.

He wasn’t stupid, Brian had already told him that the crews wouldn’t come out if the storm had hit as forecasted. Even if he hadn’t, the matter could have been cleared up over the phone. Now he just had to figure out exactly what Brian was doing here.

“I won’t stay long,” Brian turned slightly on the couch, his knee brushing against Greg’s. “I’m sure you have stuff planned for today.”

Greg laughed and motioned towards the television with his hand. “The only thing I have planned for today is shooting some bad guys and saving the world.” Remembering his manners, he stood and headed for the kitchen, pausing just before he left the room. “Can I get you a cup of coffee?”

“No thanks, I think I’m about coffee’d out today. A cup of that hot chocolate you fixed the crew yesterday would be great though, if it’s not too much trouble.”

“No trouble at all.” Greg swallowed the lump in his throat and headed to the kitchen. He grabbed his small saucepan out of the dish washer and filled it half full of milk before setting it on the stove and lighting the burner. It didn’t take long for the milk to heat and he scooped a generous serving of cocoa mix into two mugs before pouring the milk over and stirring it. He walked back to the living room cautiously, not really wanting to wear the hot chocolate and found Brian looking at the case for the game.

“It’s really a pretty good game.” Greg winced at the slightly defensive sound of his own voice and handed Brian his cup, shivering in pleasure when their fingers brushed momentarily.

“Actually, I’ve been debating on buying it ever since it came out, just haven’t yet.” Brian set the game case down and cradled the cup in his hands.

“Well, if you’re not in any hurry, it has a co-op mode. I mean, if you want to try it before you spend the money to buy it.” Greg mentally crossed his fingers that Brian would agree. Not only would it keep Brian there a little bit longer, but would give him more of a chance to figure out exactly why Brian had come over. He knew what he hoped it was, but didn’t dare flat out ask because if he was wrong, then it would make things really awkward, really fast.

“Sounds like a good way to spend a snow day.” Brian smiled and shrugged out of his jacket, laying it on the arm of the couch.

“Let me just save this game and we’ll start one at the beginning.” Greg quickly went through the motions before getting up and retrieving another controller. While he was up he added a couple of more logs to the wood stove before motioning for Brian to stand up. For just one person playing, the couch being against the wall that separated the living room from the kitchen worked really, but for the rare second person, it was better to turn the couch so that it completely faced the television. Less risk of someone blocking the other persons view at a critical moment in the game. He moved the coffee table out of the way and quickly swung one end of the couch around before moving the coffee table back in front of it.

“You didn’t have to rearrange your couch just for me.” Brian sat back down; the controller cradled in his hands, and glanced up at Greg.

“Nah, no worries. It just works better this way when two people are playing. Very rarely do I have anyone that wants to play a co-op with me, so for the most part, the other way works fine.” Greg resumed his seat and they spent the next three hours companionably killing aliens, egging each other on as the levels got harder. The only breaks they allowed themselves were for the call of nature, as needed, and to stoke the fire and refill their drinks. It was only when Greg’s stomach growled that he finally called a temporary halt to the game.

“Damn, it’s already after one.” Brian stood and stretched before heading to the bathroom just off the kitchen.

Greg followed him as far as the kitchen and started opening cupboards, looking for something to fix for lunch. When all he could come up with was some soup and grilled cheese sandwiches he made a mental note that he really needed to go grocery shopping. He watched Brian walk back into the room and held up a can of vegetable beef soup.

“Soup and grilled cheese okay with you?”

Brian made a face that brought a chuckle to Greg’s lips. “Why don’t I run out and get us a couple of hamburgers?”

“In this weather? I couldn’t ask you to do that!” Greg glanced out the kitchen window and noted the still falling snow.

“You didn’t ask, I offered. Why don’t we call and place a to go order at Broadway? You got a phone book?” Brian sat in one of the kitchen chairs as Greg dug it out and handed it to him.

Despite the weather, Broadway did sound really good. They didn’t serve those damn prepressed patties that most fast food places flopped on a bun and called a hamburger. It had been quite a while since he’d eaten there.

“If you’ll give me just a minute to finish getting dressed,” Greg motioned to his only half dressed state, “I’ll go with you.”

“No sense in both of us being out in the cold. Why don’t you stay here and keep the fire burning and I’ll go pick it up and be back, thirty minutes tops.”

Greg scowled. It really didn’t seem fair for Brian to go out in this weather while he stayed nice and toasty. Before he could say anything else, Brian had his cell phone out and was dialing. He placed his order and looked expectantly over at Greg.

“Leader of the Pack with egg, bacon, ham, and swiss cheese.”

Brian repeated the order before flipping his phone shut and getting to his feet. Greg followed him back to the living room and washed as Brian pulled his coat on.

“Well, at least let me pay for it. It’s the least I can do if you’re going to pick it up.” Greg turned to get his wallet from the kitchen, but was stopped by a hand on his shoulder.

“It was my idea, so I’ll pay. You can get it next time.”

Next time? Brian wanted there to be a next time? Greg grinned; at least he wasn’t the only one feeling the attraction. His grin slipped away as he thought about it. Unless maybe Brian was just saying that they’d hang out together as friends, maybe he was just reading too much into an innocent comment.

“I’ll be back shortly.” Brian’s gaze dropped to Greg’s lips before shaking his head and walking towards the door.

Before Greg could say anything, Brian was out the door and passing the large window. Greg’s smile quickly turned to a frown as Brian flailed his arms and disappeared from the window with a shout. He rushed to the door and flung it open, forgetting he didn’t even have shoes on until he felt the cold bite of the snow against his bare feet.

He rushed to Brian’s side, barely managing to stay on his feet until he reached him and dropped to his knees in the snow. He reached towards him only to jerk his hand back as Brian’s groaned and opened his eyes.

“Damn, that fuckin hurt.” Brian struggled to sit and Greg reached out and used an arm across Brian’s back to help him.

“Where you hurt?” Greg’s eyes searched frantically for any sign of blood, but he couldn’t see anything wrong. “Did you hit your head? Twist your ankle? Anything feel like it’s broken?” He fired off one question after another, his heart pounding in his chest.

“I’m fine; just landed on my hip wrong.” Brian ran his hand over the spot and winced. “Even through the damn snow, that hurt!”

Greg got to his feet and held out a hand to help Brian up, shivering as the adrenaline rush wore off and the cold penetrated his bare skin. He helped Brian brush the snow off his jacket and was about to ask him again if he was alright when Brian opened his mouth.

“You should get back inside before you freeze, though I appreciate the rush to my rescue.” Brian grinned and nodded at Greg’s feet that were already turning a bright red from the cold.

“Come inside and I’ll just fix the soup and sandwiches.”

“We already called in the order. I’m fine, just a little sore. I’ll be back in a jiffy, promise.” Brian’s gaze once more zeroed in on Greg’s mouth and before Greg could guess his intentions, Brian leaned forward and pressed their lips together fleetingly. Before he could respond, the pressure was gone and he could only watch as Brian made his way to his truck, a slight limp in his gait, but Greg could have sworn he heard whistling.

The cold finally became too much and he rushed back into the house. Not wanting a repeat of the early incident, with the exception of that brief kiss, he rushed upstairs and pulled a shirt on and a pair of socks and headed back downstairs. Once he was bundled up in his heavy coat, gloves, and boots, he headed back outside and grabbed the snow shovel out of the garage. He shoveled off the porch and the path leading up to it before turning his attention to the driveway. He focused his attention on the area where Brian had parked, and only stopped once the majority of the snow was gone. Knowing it would build back up fairly quickly; he grabbed his bucket of ice melt and sprinkled it over the area he had just cleared.

A glance at the clock showed that Brian would be back anytime and he was chilled to the bone from his exertions. Hoping he’d have enough time, he rushed up the stairs into the bathroom and stripped before turning the water on as hot as he could stand it with his chilled skin. Knowing he couldn’t linger; he stood under the spray only until he no longer felt cold and stepped out to run a thick towel over his skin. He made his way into his bedroom and had just pulled a pair of jeans on when he heard a knock on the front door. He had to admit, he was a bit nervous about facing Brian after that barely there kiss, but even with the nerves, there was a sense of anticipation curling through this veins. He hurried down the stairs, pulling a t-shirt over his head on his way.

“You didn’t have to shovel just for me.” Brian limped inside once Greg had opened the door, his arm lightly brushing Greg’s as he moved past.

“Didn’t want to risk you falling again.” Greg shivered at the contact and reached out to relieve Brian of his burden in order to allow the guy a chance to slip out of his coat. He walked over to the couch and set the containers on the coffee table before he realized that Brian hadn’t followed him. He turned and found him still standing by the door watching him.

“Everything okay?”

“Yeah.” Brian took a deep breath and closed the distance between them, making Greg’s heart speed up. “Look, about what happened…”

“If you say you’re sorry, I might just have to…” Brian trailed off, unable to think of a suitable threat. He didn’t want Brian to be regretting what had happened. In fact, he really wanted it to happen again.

“No, I’m not sorry, well, I am, but…” Brian raked his hand through his hair. “Fuck this is hard. I just don’t want you to feel like I’m pushing you into anything. Since you didn’t immediately deck me, I’m guessing I didn’t offend you or anything.”

“Not that you really gave me a chance to.” Greg grinned and stepped forward until mere inches separated them. He could see the spark of fear enter Brian’s eyes and wanted nothing more than to erase that look. Before he could overthink it, he leaned forward and slanted his lips across Brian’s, nipping lightly at the other man’s lower lip. He breathed a sigh of relief against Brian’s lips when he felt Brian’s arms close around him and pull him tight against his hard body as he deepened their kiss. By the time Greg pulled away, they were both breathing hard.

“Damn.” Brian rested his forehead against Greg’s. “I’ve been wanting to do that since the day I came to give you a quote.”

“You and me both.” Greg chuckled and sank down onto the couch, pulling Brian down next to him. He wasn’t sure what else to say.

“I think,” Brian cleared his throat, “we should eat before it gets too cold, then we can… explore this attraction between us a bit more.”

Greg sighed and relaxed against the back of the couch, lost in thought. Brian sounded so casual about it, but it had been a while since he’d kissed someone else. Maybe it meant more to him than it did to Brian. He’d never done casual, and if that’s what Brian wanted, well, he just wasn’t sure he could do it, attracted or not.

“Greg? You okay?”

Greg blinked and focused on Brian, smiling apologetically when he saw that Brian was holding out the styrofoam container that held his burger. He took the food and forced his concerns to the back of his mind as they ate. He kept glancing over at Brian, looking quickly away whenever he caught Brian watching him. Only once they had finished their meals did he turn to fully face the man next to him.

“Okay, out with it.” Brian set his empty container on the coffee table and turned so they were face to face. “I can tell that something is going on in that head of yours.”

“I just,” Greg sighed, “I don’t know how to put it into words.”

“I think we’ve established that we’re attracted to each other.” Brian reached out and took Greg’s hand in his, tracing his thumb lightly over the back of his hand. “Is that a problem for you?”

“No, it’s not that. I just… I’ve never been good at the casual thing.” Greg pulled his hand free and stood up to walk over to the window and stare out at the falling snow.

“So what, you want a promise of forever?” Brian’s tone was enough to make Greg turn to face him.

“No, that’s not what I mean. Sure, I’d eventually like to have forever with someone, who doesn’t want that? It’s hard to explain.” Greg stuffed his hands in his pockets and stared at the guy sitting on his couch. Did he want to explore the idea of a relationship? Yes, sure he did. At the look of confusion on Brian’s face he knew he would have to try to explain a little better. “I guess saying I’ve never been good at the casual thing was the wrong way to put it. Every time I’ve gone into a relationship, I go into it with the intention of finding out if the person I’m with is someone I could spend the rest of my life with. I don’t go into it thinking that I’ll just have some fun and then it’ll be over.”

“And that’s what you think I want?” Brian stood and took a step towards him, his eyes searching Greg’s face. For what, Greg didn’t know. “Am I going to lie to you and say I haven’t done casual? No, I’m not. Do I think it’s possible that we could spend the rest of our lives together? I don’t know. I don’t know you well enough yet to even make a guess on whether or not we could last.” Brian took another step. “Do I want to find out? Damn right I do.”

Brian’s words soothed something deep inside of him and laid his biggest fear to rest, that Brian was just looking for a friend with benefits. He wasn’t sure where their mutual attraction would lead, but if he didn’t give it a chance, he’d never know what could have been.

His decision made, Greg closed the distance separating them and captured Brian’s lips with his own. No matter where the journey they were embarking on took them, he was sure it was going to be one hell of a ride.

 

 

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Thanks to my wonderful team for their work on this, especially with how close I came with the deadline. You guys are awesome! And a special thanks to Lugh for the help with the description and story name!

Copyright © 2011 Renee Stevens; All Rights Reserved.
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I really love the honesty between these two guys. With teenager does he or doesn't he like me angst we often get games or the characters trying to sneakily find out how the other person feels. I love the way Brian can just ask Greg to talk without getting super upset and how they communicate and reassure each other. Before they move to 'really' reassure each other about how they feel, that is, LOL. That's what I love about adult relationship stories. Well done! Oh, and I said it before but I really do love the picture you made for this story.

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You do have a way of making it all look so easy Renee. I love how Greg and Brian handle it all. The attraction, the growing interest, the fall on the way out for lunch. Even the running out to shovel the area before he comes back. Great story. I hope you come back to these guys again. Would love to know what happens when the spring time arrives. lol

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On 12/17/2011 04:02 PM, comicfan said:
You do have a way of making it all look so easy Renee. I love how Greg and Brian handle it all. The attraction, the growing interest, the fall on the way out for lunch. Even the running out to shovel the area before he comes back. Great story. I hope you come back to these guys again. Would love to know what happens when the spring time arrives. lol
Thanks for the review Wayne! I really enjoyed writing this story. It was a tough call for me on this one to decide how far these guys would go, but in the end, I decided I didn't want them to get TOO involved in such a short span of time. They're willing to see where it goes, and I think that's all that anyone could really ask. As far as seeing these guys again... At this point, not sure that's going to happen, but only the future will tell. Thanks hon!

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On 12/17/2011 02:27 PM, Lugh said:
Most entertaining!

Good job, minion.

Minion? Really? *Sigh* Well, at least being one of your "minion"'s isn't such a bad thing! Thanks for the review hon and glad that you enjoyed the story!

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On 12/17/2011 07:34 AM, Cia said:
I really love the honesty between these two guys. With teenager does he or doesn't he like me angst we often get games or the characters trying to sneakily find out how the other person feels. I love the way Brian can just ask Greg to talk without getting super upset and how they communicate and reassure each other. Before they move to 'really' reassure each other about how they feel, that is, LOL. That's what I love about adult relationship stories. Well done! Oh, and I said it before but I really do love the picture you made for this story.
Thanks for the review Cia! I so appreciate all the help that you gave me with this story, couldn't have done it without you and I think we make a really good team. This was one story where I didn't really want a ton of drama between the two guys. I wanted them to be able to "connect" but yet not really *push* the relationship too fast. Thanks again!

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This was the most perfect story to read on a cold windy day, curled up on the couch. Now, I must find my hubby to make him come curl up with me. I like how honest these guys are. Refreshing. No games, no beating around the fallen trees. Sweet! :D

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A wonderful beginning of the relationship story. I loved how you set it up to meet after the storm and then used the second storm to bring them together. Nice job.

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This is a great story, because it feels so real. I can identify with Greg and Brian. They seem like an interesting pair. I wonder if Brian will cut the quote afterward :P

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On 12/18/2011 09:07 AM, K.C. said:
This was the most perfect story to read on a cold windy day, curled up on the couch. Now, I must find my hubby to make him come curl up with me. I like how honest these guys are. Refreshing. No games, no beating around the fallen trees. Sweet! :D
Thanks for the review KC! I'm glad that you enjoyed my little story! And considering the subject, I suppose it would be a good story for a windy day, lol. For once I wanted to write a story where things were a bit more matter of fact. Sure, they had their moments, but both are willing to go for what they want! Thanks so much!

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On 12/18/2011 09:24 AM, Bill W said:
A wonderful beginning of the relationship story. I loved how you set it up to meet after the storm and then used the second storm to bring them together. Nice job.
Thank you for the review Bill! Glad that you enjoyed the read! I may revisit these two characters sometime in the future, but that remains to be seen. Who knows what could happen if there was another storm... hmmm.. oh the possibilities! Thanks again!

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On 12/18/2011 05:31 PM, W_L said:
This is a great story, because it feels so real. I can identify with Greg and Brian. They seem like an interesting pair. I wonder if Brian will cut the quote afterward :P
Thanks for the review W_L. I am so glad to hear that you could identify with the guys. I always worry about whether or not the readers will be able to care about the guys. The idea for this story actually came from a real life thing. There was a massive wind storm a couple hours from me and many pine trees were ripped from the ground with the strength of the wind. As for Brian cutting the quote... even if he tried it, I don't know if Greg would accept it, lol. Thanks again!

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I really liked this story.

The setting, the characters, it was all kind of familiar and something I could easily picture happening around here.

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I would call this a silver lining romance. Out of the storm comes something fortuitous. A really nice story that I completely got involved in and enjoyed. Well written. Sorry the I like well come as soon as I have some more.

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Loved this story! wub.png There was some tentativeness and that's perfectly natural. You dealt with it admirably. I must say, though, that if it weren't for Brian, Greg would still be shooting aliens. lmaosmiley.gif Good on Brian! Great character work here, Renee! thumbsupsmileyanim.gif

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Loved it, a excellent read, love the character of Brian. How many time have we played the is he/she isn't he/she game. :)

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On 12/19/2011 04:28 PM, Daddydavek said:
A quick read with a nice flow and it ended right!
Thank you Daddydavek!! Glad that you enjoyed the story and that you liked the ending :)

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On 12/20/2011 12:13 AM, Daniel89 said:
I really liked this story.

The setting, the characters, it was all kind of familiar and something I could easily picture happening around here.

Thank you for the review Daniel! The storm and the downed trees were actually based on what happened to someone in my family, the rest is all from my own mind, lol. Glad you enjoyed it!

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On 12/23/2011 12:45 AM, Foster said:
I would call this a silver lining romance. Out of the storm comes something fortuitous. A really nice story that I completely got involved in and enjoyed. Well written. Sorry the I like well come as soon as I have some more.
Thanks for the review Sam! Glad that you were able to enjoy this story and it was something that you were able to get lost in!

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On 12/24/2011 12:38 PM, Conner said:
Loved this story! wub.png There was some tentativeness and that's perfectly natural. You dealt with it admirably. I must say, though, that if it weren't for Brian, Greg would still be shooting aliens. lmaosmiley.gif Good on Brian! Great character work here, Renee! thumbsupsmileyanim.gif
Thank you for the review Conner! I'm glad that the way the two behaved felt natural! I really wanted this story to have a bit of a "real" feeling and from your comments it seems like I managed that!

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On 12/30/2011 01:56 AM, Kiltie69 said:
Loved it, a excellent read, love the character of Brian. How many time have we played the is he/she isn't he/she game. :)
Thanks for the review Kiltie! I think most of us have done the is he/she isn't he/she...

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I loved this. Greg and Brain are great characters and I love the way you slowly ratcheted up the tension between them to a warm happy ending. :) Thanks for sharing!

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