Divide & conquer, p.30
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       Divide & Conquer, p.30

         Part #4 of Cut & Run series by Abigail Roux
Page 30


  “O, wait,” Ty pleaded as he grabbed at Nicks elbow. Nick turned and pulled him closer, kissing him again before Ty could anticipate it. He could feel his body reacting, though, whether he wanted it to or not. Nick delved into Tys mouth with a swipe of his tongue before yanking away violently.

  Nick pushed him away and put out his hand to stop Ty from coming closer. “God! We never were good at self-control. ” He wouldnt look Ty in the eye. “Just let me go. ”

  “Okay,” Ty agreed in a stricken voice. Nick reached for the door of the cab and yanked it open almost angrily. “Oorah, Grady,” he said with a sad smile before he disappeared into the dark car. Ty was left standing alone on the street as the taillights faded off into the night.

  T Y TRIED to tell himself he didnt need to go home to Zane tonight. It was cruel to have alcohol on his breath around Zane, and hed already done it once this week. His other choices were a hotel or Zanes apartment, but Ty had been drinking, so he couldnt drive, and he didnt want to have to catch a cab. Mostly, he really didnt need Zane to hear the guilt and confusion and myriad of other emotions Ty knew he wouldnt be able to keep out of his voice. He should just call Zane, tell him he and the guys were crashing at a hotel, hole up for the night, and pretend nothing had happened when he woke up hungover.

  But he knew he couldnt do that. When he got home, he was still warring with himself over whether he should even tell Zane about what had happened tonight. Hed outed not only himself, but Zane as well, without truly thinking it through. And then there was the kiss.

  It wasnt like Ty had ever been celibate. Zane knew hed gotten around and wasnt shy about sex. But Ty had never been with anyone hed hidden from Zane, and since theyd been partnered permanently, Ty hadnt been with anyone else, period. Ty knew it was just a simple kiss, but for him there was no gray area when it came to sex. Either you cheated or you didnt.

  He didnt believe Zane was fucking anyone else, but just the thought made Ty cringe. It seemed so unlikely, since they were together so much… but really they weren’t. Obstacles and commitments separated them every day: different projects at work, the softball league, AA meetings, Tys running and Zanes weightlifting, various and sundry other off-hours pursuits. Throw in the very necessary secrecy that shrouded their relationship, and it was kind of amazing that they were still together at all. But they were, every night that work allowed, despite everything that tried to divide them.

  Ty didnt know if Zane wanted his loyalty, but he had it nonetheless. Semper Fi. The real question Ty found himself grappling over was how Zane would take it when he told him about tonight. Would he see it as a threat? Emotional blackmail? Ty didnt think so, but hed found there were still times he couldnt predict how Zane would react.

  It was dark and quiet in the house. Zane must have gone to bed. A wave of desperate relief washed over Ty, and within minutes he was sitting on the back step with a cheap cigar and a couple of bottles to help extend the buzz and ward off the winter chill.

  Uncounted minutes later, his entire body still pinged pleasantly, courtesy the two hard lemonades on top of the beer hed had at the bar. He was just drunk enough that he didnt have to think too hard about what had happened tonight anymore. He held the cheap cigar in his fingers, puffing on it occasionally and blowing smoke rings into the dark. He didnt like to smoke the good ones when he was drunk. It seemed a waste.

  The door behind him creaked open, drawing Tys attention, and he closed his eyes as Zane stepped out onto the stoop. Nerves assaulted him all over again.

  “Ty?” Zane asked hesitantly. “Yeah, Im here,” he answered immediately, not even entertaining the idea of not doing so. He had yet to take advantage of his partners inability to see, even for fun and games. He wasnt about to start now.

  Zane stepped just outside the door. “I smelled the cigar. You guys have a good time?” Ty lowered his head as another wave of guilt and anger and regret and desire coursed through him. It was such a wash of confusing emotions he wasnt quite sure how to deal with it, and the alcohol wasnt helping. He looked back up and took another drag of the cigar, holding in the fragrant smoke and then exhaling heavily. Smoke billowed out in front of him. “I outed myself tonight,” he told Zane in a marginally surprised voice.

  Zanes eyes widened as his unfocused gaze shifted in Tys direction. “What?” “I told them,” Ty said in the same shocked voice as he looked up at Zane. “About us. There was this pretty little waitress and…. ” He shook his head and looked off to the side, as if trying to figure out how it had happened. “I told them I wasnt interested,” he tried to explain before putting the cigar to his lips again. He looked down, embarrassed to have to say it again. “They called me on it, and I told them I was in love. ”

  Zane shifted uncomfortably as he slid his hands into his pockets. He didnt have a jacket on, just a thin, long-sleeved Henley. “Howd they take it?”

  Ty shook his head, looking at the cigar with a heavy feeling that settled deep in his chest. He couldnt shake the memory of the look of disgust and anger on Owens face.

  “Owen stormed out of the bar,” he answered in a hoarse voice, pushing those feelings away for another day. “Apparently being gay makes you incapable of having someones back in a fight,” he said bitterly. Zanes shoulders stiffened, and he frowned deeply, his lips pressing together hard. Ty nodded, flushing and looking away from Zane again. “The others took it pretty well,” he went on, swallowing heavily. “Kelly was… very interested in the logistics of it all. ”

  He took another long drag. He didnt plan on telling Zane what the other men thought of him. He knew Zane hadnt been in top form when theyd met him. He knew that wasnt the real Zane theyd seen, the Zane that Ty loved.

  He closed his eyes, heat coursing through him once more as he remembered the way Nicks lips had felt against his. The embrace had felt right, in a way, at the same time as it felt so very wrong to be kissing anyone but Zane.

  But two years ago, if Nick had kissed him like that…. Ty shook his head to push away that line of thought. He could torture himself endlessly with uncertainties and questions. Should he tell Zane what had happened? Would it sound like a threat? Would it seem like Ty was giving him an ultimatum? Tell me you love me, too, or I’m leaving?

  Ty didnt want that, and he would never do that. But not telling Zane about the kiss felt just as wrong. It felt like… cheating. “Nick kissed me,” he blurted to Zane as he looked up at him. Zane froze utterly, like he did when he was very upset… or very angry. Then he tipped his head just a bit, the motion indicating he wanted Ty to keep talking.

  Ty shook his head, still in slight disbelief over the tale he was relating. He was sure he wouldnt have been able to do it if Zane could actually see him. “We were walking home because he was sort of… I thought he was drunk, but…. ” He trailed off and shook his head again, unable to meet Zanes sightless eyes as his cheeks flushed. “One minute he was ranting about risking your life for your country and being able to tell your friends the truth, and the next he was looking at me… and he kissed me,” he rambled helplessly, telling the story with a variety of hand motions and numb, helpless looks up at Zane.

  “And then?” Zane asked softly. Ty stared at Zanes blank face, wondering at the emotionless reaction. It was like he was just relating another night on the town to his partner, instead of telling his lover about a kiss shared with someone else. He knew closing off like this was how Zane reacted to being devastated, but it still hurt Ty deeply. Why did Zane still have to hide from him?

  It took him a long, painful moment to push the twisting sensation in his gut back down. Somewhere out there Nick OFlaherty was lying in a hotel bed alone, wondering if hed done the right thing, hoping Ty would call him, hoping Ty wouldn’t call him, thinking about what might have happened if theyd just told each other the truth eight years ago when theyd been discharged. Somewhere out there was a man Ty didnt have to put up a front of strength for. Someone he
didnt have to fight with day in and day out. Someone hed always liked and respected. Someone he didnt love but could surely fuck until sunup every night and no doubt be happy and angst-free with for the rest of his life. Nick and Zane were as different as the sun and the moon.

  Ty put the cigar to his lips and inhaled slowly, his eyes losing focus as he stared out at the lights of the city. He couldnt tell Zane what Nick had actually said. When Ty got tired of waiting for Zane. It revealed too much about Ty and how well he knew his plodding partner, how long he would just hang around and wait. Zane should be allowed the delusion that he still had secrets, right?

  He looked up at Zane guardedly. His cheeks flushed, and a wave of inexplicable loneliness coursed through him. “He just said I knew where to find him. ”

  When Zane flinched, Ty caught a glimpse of emotion flashing across his face. It could have been pain, but it could just as easily have been anger. Or jealousy. Or Tys own drunken imagination. It didnt make Ty feel any better.

  “Youve been friends a long time,” Zane finally said, his voice noncommittal. Ty hung his head, his eyes closed as he puffed on the cheap cigar. He had agonized over whether to tell him, and Zane didnt really seem to care one way or the other. That, or he was hiding his emotions behind that same damn mask, and what was the point? Would he ever get to a point where he could just be with Ty and not hide anything?

  “Yes, we have,” he finally murmured sadly. Ty stayed where he was, sitting on the lower step with his head hanging, afraid to move or open his mouth again for fear of what he might do or say. He had put so much of himself on the line these last few weeks, getting so little in return. Less than nothing, really, since hed lost an old friend and gained a myriad of new problems.

  When Zane shifted his weight and pulled the screen door open so he could walk back inside, leaving Ty alone on the stoop, Ty couldnt let him go. Dammit, he needed someone to let him be weak just once, someone to let him break down.

  “Zane?” Ty said shakily, his voice agonized and miserable. He breathed in deeply, trying to regain control of his emotions. One thing he did know for certain: he would get on his knees and beg Zane not to leave him alone tonight. He let out a gust of air, and when he spoke, his voice was calm. “I know I smell like cheap beer and cigar smoke,” he told Zane as he stared out into the night. “But I just…. ”

  He lowered his head and closed his eyes in embarrassment, unable to finish the request. For a moment there was silence, and then the creak and snap of the screen door shutting. Zanes shoes scraped on the concrete of the stoop. He stood there, waiting. “You just what?” he asked, his voice rough in the still night air.

  Ty turned his head, breath catching. His buzz was long gone, and his body was left trembling with nerves and emotions that he usually ignored or avoided. He could feel his breathing, uneven and difficult, and he knew his heart was absolutely pounding. He thought maybe Zane would be able to feel his racing pulse if he got any closer.

  So many times hed held his tongue, embarrassed to open up to Zane. So many times hed chosen to be the hardass, the one who supposedly didnt feel anything, the rock for Zanes more volatile mood swings. It had worked for them. It had worked for him. Now it seemed like the house of cards was crashing down around him, and he was just as tired of hiding himself as he was of Zane doing it.

  He closed his eyes and took one deep, calming breath, then stood and turned to look at his partner. “I really need a friend tonight, Garrett,” he said roughly, determined to keep himself from breaking down, at least for tonight. At least until Zanes sight was back and they could put this chapter behind them. “You think you can handle that for me?”

  After a moments pause in the silence, Zane took a step to the side, pulled the screen door open, and held out his hand. T HEYlay curled on their sides, Zane behind Ty with his arm over Tys waist as he waited for his breathing to slow and his pulse to calm. Ty had shocked him tonight. Scared him.

  Coming out to his Recon team—and then admitting he was in love—Zane couldnt even imagine what kind of pressure Ty had felt. And on top of that, admitting who he loved? Zane was sure that hadnt gone quite as well as Ty had glossed over. They were his best friends, but hed kept a pretty major secret from them for a long time, and the man he said he loved was a stranger to them. Not the best of situations.

  And Nick. Nick, whod invited him to dinner with the rest of the Recon team. Nick, who had been Tys best friend since boot camp, who understood what Ty had lived and how to deal with him. Who had heard about Zane and made his own move to give Ty an alternative.

  Zane knew why. As he tightened his arms around Ty and pressed his forehead to Tys shoulder, he knew why. Zane had wanted Ty since hed met him, and every time chaos had crashed down on them—separation after the Tri-State case, Tys near-death experience in the mountains, the danger on the cruise ship, even Ty telling Zane that he loved him—that attachment had grown more intense, despite every doubt and fear and weakness Zane took into consideration.

  But Nicks attachment to Ty might be even stronger. Zane didnt think he could bear to lose Ty now. He loved Ty. Painfully. Desperately. But now wasnt the time to finally get his head out of his ass and admit it, not after what Ty had said tonight. Ty would see it as a reaction to external pressure, not an honest feeling from the heart, and Zanes words would be set aside like the first time he had said them, slow dancing in Tys arms.

  As his unseeing eyes burned, Zane thought very seriously he might cry.

  Chapter Twelve

  T HE next morning was a Sunday, and Ty headed to the hotel to say goodbye to Nick and the others. It was time for them to leave, and though Ty hadnt been able to spend much time with them, there was just too much going on for him to feel good about them staying in town. Not to mention the ramifications of his confession. Owen wouldnt speak to him, avoiding him under the auspices of last minute packing. Tyd had trouble looking Nick in the eye, but he had forced himself to do it, recognizing the same awkwardness in his best friend.
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