I’m taking a short break from Growth for Free Fiction Friday this week. Our lovely story Different Tracks is at an end! I thought a fitting post would be for today. If you haven’t kept up with Xander and Peter, the links below will take you to each post (links will open in a new window or tab). I’ve had a BLAST doing this round robin with a group of amazing authors. Stay tuned, because I think we’ll be doing another soon!
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Different Tracks – Epilogue
Xander climbed out of the car and took a look around. The new site was a bit more out of the way than the last one, but he liked it. It had more shade than the other one did, and a lot more space to move around.
He grabbed his water bottle and his tool belt, then shut the door. Once he got the belt in place, he started across the site, his vision fixed to one person in particular, standing outside the site trailer. Tall, blond, and the hottest man in that part of the state—well, Xander would probably say in the country, but he’d get an argument over that. One he’d end up winning after a few well-placed kisses and a drop to his knees.
He smirked at the thought.
“Hey Xander, how’s it going?”
“Good, Mr. J. Thanks for asking. How’s that arthritis doing?”
“It’d be better if I could actually do something,” Mr. J grumbled. “All these youngin’s thinkin’ I’m too old to do work.”
Xander grinned. “Of course you’re not.”
Mr. J shook his head and kept walking, waving behind him. Xander thought he heard something about patronizing kids and laughed.
Before he managed to get more than another few feet, he was tackled from behind. A pair of breasts crushed into his back. “Hiiiiii!”
Xander shook his head. “Hi Jo. Your new boyfriend not here yet?”
She snorted and smacked his ass. “Why? Want to drool?”
“Sorry, I’ve got better eye candy,” Xander said, looking toward the trailer.
Jo rolled her eyes. “You guys are almost gross,” she said, smirking.
“Yeah, yeah, I’ll be gross. Going to now, in fact,” he said, waving and got moving again.
Of course, he couldn’t manage to move more than a few more feet. “Hey, Xander,” Mike said, stepping up and clapping a hand on his shoulder. “Oh, the new ink looks good.”
Xander grinned at this, glancing at his shoulder. A short set of railroad tracks had space there and two names covered them, crossing over the tracks and meeting in the middle: Xander and Peter. “Thanks. Took some time to get it right, but I’m happy with it.”
“I’d hope so. He’s still working out the schedule for the next few weeks. We’ll see you at the dinner, right?”
Xander nodded. “I don’t see why not, unless there are other plans.”
“Good! See you later!” Mike clapped him on the shoulder again and finally, Xander was able to keep moving.
He stopped, though, a few feet away, watching his partner studying paper on the clipboard. It’d taken time for him to get through the fears. He’d been expecting Peter to change his mind for a long time after that first morning. But he hadn’t. Instead, Peter had chipped away at Xander’s fears and anxiety, slowly but surely working to ease his worries.
And last year, Xander had made the farmhouse his home.
Now, two years to the day after he’d showed up on a Habitat for Humanity building site for the first time, Xander was going to be the first to take a new step in their relationship.
It wasn’t perfect. Like any other couple, they had things they had to work through, issues that surprised—and didn’t surprise—both of them. Peter had been nothing if not determined, though, and Xander had managed to keep from letting his fears get the best of him during some of those arguments. And every time he’d started to fret, Peter had dragged him into the dining room and pointed.
Right at the wall that now sported a mural. Of torn up drywall with a hammer stuck in it. Peter had hired a local artist to paint it—who undoubtedly thought he was nuts—to look like a broken wall. It was painted to show jagged edges, beams underneath and exposed brick behind it with a hammer hanging off one of the edges. Xander, for as weird as it probably was to everyone else, loved it.
He closed the distance now and stepped up in front of Peter. “Hey,” he murmured, suddenly nervous.
Peter looked up, grin spreading across his face. “Hey yourself. I was wondering when you’d get here. Where’d you go?”
“Had to pick something up. Oh, uh, Mike wanted to know if we’re going to the dinner tonight.”
Peter nodded. “Yeah, unless you don’t want to.”
Xander smiled. “I don’t mind. So, uh…” He swallowed as his nerves flared worse. Peter raised his eyebrows, but waited, having learned long ago that Xander would spit it out, it just took a bit sometimes. Xander cleared his throat and reached into his tool belt. He wrapped his hand around the box, took a deep breath, and took it out. He glanced over to see Jo watching. She gave him a thumbs up and he let out the breath.
He looked back at Peter, cleared his throat, and opened the small velvet box. Relief filled him at the stunned smile on Peter’s face. “Uh, I’m not one much for the whole one-knee thing, but, uh, I wondered if you might, um, want to maybe be my husband?”
Peter blinked at the ring, then up at Xander, then back at the ring. “Really?”
Xander swallowed, but nodded, dropping his gaze to the white gold band etched with a criss-cross pattern nestled in velvet. Not exactly “tracks” but close enough in Xander’s opinion. “Yeah. Uh, I love you. And I know you feel the same. Took a long time for me to admit that, but I think it just means it’s as true as it could be. So… I-I want to spend the rest of my life loving you.”
Because he wasn’t looking, he was surprised when Peter pulled him into a kiss. He didn’t mind, though, loving the reaction and what it meant.
Until, of course, the entire site broke out in whistles and applause. Xander’s cheeks burned. Even Peter looked a little embarrassed.
“Well, are you going to put it on me?” Peter asked.
Xander smirked. “You didn’t actually say yes. Can’t have the ring until you do.”
Peter laughed. “Only you, Xander. Only you. I love you.”
Xander waited, still smirking, knowing full well what the answer would be. He didn’t have to wait, but now that he knew Peter meant those words, now that he was confident Peter wanted him, he could play, trusting he knew what was coming and Peter would say yes. He raised his eyebrows at his partner—fiancé—and waited to see if he was right.
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Make sure to check out the rest of the stories from Free Fiction Friday!