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Every story has an end; every end has a new beginning. This is merely the end of a chapter in the lives of our friends.

Weak sunlight shone over the bed as Corey pushed his arms above his head and stretched his body out. He froze while turning over to go back to sleep as awareness shot through him.

There was an arm across his waist.

He lifted the sheet up and peered at the arm on him. He blushed when he noticed the gold ring on the hand and turned his head to look at his husband.

Blue eyes peered back at him as Matt sleepily tugged him close and nuzzled the back of his neck.

“Morning,” Corey whispered.

Matt kissed Corey’s shoulder. “Morning.”

They shifted until they found a position comfortable for both of them. Matt ended up with his chin on Corey’s shoulder as the smaller man tucked himself into his arms.

“Do you want to get up or should we get a little more sleep?” Matt asked while trailing his hand up and down Corey’s stomach.

Corey shivered at the sensation of Matt’s hand as he settled the sheets around their shoulders and nodded. “More sleep. Need sleep.”

Matt smiled and pressed his lips against Corey’s hair. “Sleep.”

“So I was thinking,” Brian began tentatively, “that I’d ask you to spend the summer with me, in LA, since you said you don’t have any plans. But I don’t want you to think I’m trying to,” he shrugged uncomfortable. “I don’t know what I’m trying to say.”

AJ refrained from laughing at the hopeless expression on Brian’s face. He managed to limit himself to a smile.

“You want me to spend the summer in LA where I will be accessible to you but you don’t want to complicate things by asking me to spend the summer with you?”

“No!” Brian said firmly. He sighed and rubbed his face. “I want you to spend the summer in LA where I can spend more time with you. I don’t want it to seem like I want you around just for sex.” He looked down and shook his head. Lifting his head he looked into AJ’s eyes. “I want to get to know you, spend time with you, but I don’t want you to feel pressured into anything.” He shrugged. “This is a new situation for me. I’ve never been attracted to a guy before, I don’t know what I’m doing here.”

AJ stared at Brian in surprise. He’d known the man was sweet. Corey found him adorably sweet. AJ had figured the man had to be sweet and nice to his friend’s fiancÚ. But to just lay himself out this way… he shook his head and smiled.

“I’d love to spend the summer with you Brian.” He slid his hand onto Brian’s knee and squeezed. “This is a new situation for me too. I’ve not had the time to date much. It’s nice to know that you don’t expect anything from me which is why it’s easy for me to tell you that I enjoy being with you.”

They smiled at each other as Brian tugged on AJ’s hand until he stood up from the chair he’d been sitting on and allowed Brian to tug him into his lap.

“Thank you Alex.” Brian cupped AJ’s cheek and drew him into a kiss. The first of many that morning.

Nick groaned as the cold bathroom tile began warming against his back while Kevin kissed and nipped along his neck.

“Kevin,” Nick sighed and tilted his head back to give Kevin more access.

He slid his fingers through Kevin’s hair. “We’re supposed to meet your parents for breakfast,” he moaned as Kevin began kissing his shoulder.

“Whose brilliant idea was that?” Kevin asked while trailing his lips back up to Nick’s neck.


He whined when Kevin pulled away and raised his head to look at him. Kevin pressed his hands flat on either side of Nick’s head and leaned into him.

“Couldn’t you have gotten us out of it?”

Nick pouted and trailed his hand over Kevin’s firm chest. His very firm chest with water droplets on it which were calling to Nick to lick them up.

“But he asked so nicely,” Nick distractedly said, his eyes fixed on the drop of water that slid into Kevin’s navel.

Kevin leaned closer and spoke softly in Nick’s ear. “I’ll thank you even nicer if you can get us out of it.” He blew gently on Nick’s ear before biting down on the lobe.

Nick moaned and pressed himself into Kevin’s arms. “Cheaters both of you!”

“How so,” Kevin asked while holding Nick tight in his arms and rubbing his hands against Nick’s cold back to warm him up.

“He coaxed me into it with candy; you’re trying to coax me out of it with sex!”

Kevin couldn’t help but laugh at Nick’s sulking tone.

“You really want us to go?” He asked carefully. He turned off the shower and handed Nick a towel.

Nick wiped his face and nodded. “I’ll make sure we get out fast. We’re meeting Matt and Core for lunch so we have the perfect excuse to leave too.”

Kevin sighed and rubbed the towel over his hair.

“This way I didn’t have to say no and I’ll get you out of there with a minimum of fuss.”

Kevin realized Nick was in a difficult position and he wasn’t making things any easier. He nodded and gave in before leaning forward to capture Nick’s lips in a soft kiss.

Nick smiled and wrapped his arms around Kevin, happy that Kevin wasn’t upset.

Nick smiled as he and Cara kept the conversation flowing while Kevin only spoke when spoken to. He kept a firm hold on Kevin’s thigh with his left hand and squeezed down often to remind Kevin that he wasn’t ignoring him.

Kevin was unsure as to what to do over breakfast other than let Nick and his parents lead the conversation. It had been a long time since he’d spent any major time with his father and didn’t know what to say or do or in this case not say or do in order to have a peaceful time.

Nick cut his stack of pancakes in half and smiled at the look Kevin gave him as he slid half the stack onto Kevin’s plate.

“Eat up!”

Kevin rolled his eyes but obeyed and picked up his knife and fork.

“What are your plans for the rest of the day boys?” Cara asked.

Nick glanced at Kevin who shrugged. He rolled his eyes at his boyfriend before smiling at his godmother.

“We’re meeting Corey and Matt for lunch. We thought we’d go play tourists later if we have time.”

“And there’s dinner later,” Cara said. “Jake and Richard invited us for dinner.”

“Oh that’s right, I forgot to tell you,” Kevin said to Nick. “Jake told me about it last night. They invited everyone who is staying today for dinner. It’s at the Italian restaurant where they hosted dinner the first night.”

“Cool,” Nick smiled and squeezed Kevin’s thigh.

“That wasn’t so bad now was it?” Nick asked as they walked back to their room a little while later.

“With you around and mom around playing buffer it was tolerable.”

Nick nudged Kevin with his shoulder and smiled when Kevin slid his arm around Nick’s shoulder.

“How did we end up with plans to have lunch with Corey and Matt today?” Kevin asked a little later as he went through his emails.

Nick who had been using Kevin’s stomach as his pillow turned to look at him. “Umm Matt told me about it so I’m guessing it was his idea. Why?”

Kevin trailed a finger down Nick’s cheek. “I thought maybe they’d like to take the day to themselves.”

Nick shifted and moved up the bed, gently draping himself over Kevin. “Maybe he just wants Core to have us around.”

Kevin wrapped his arms around Nick and set his phone aside.

“Do you think you could take a few days off at the end of the month?” Nick asked hesitantly. “AJ and I plan to head to Vegas for a little trip.”

“Vegas… that sounds like a good time.”

Nick looked into Kevin’s sparkling eyes and knew he was teasing him. He sighed and poked Kevin’s chin.

“Kevin would you be interested in joining AJ and me in Las Vegas at the end of the month for a few days.”

Kevin smiled, “I’d like that very much Nick. Thank you for inviting me.”

Nick rolled his eyes and grinned. Kevin slid his hand into Nick’s hair and drew him down into a kiss.

Corey stared at his reflection in shock. He whirled around and pointed accusingly at his husband. “You gave me a hickey!”

Matt finished strapping his watch on with a laugh. “Yes, you felt me do it.”

Corey pouted and pointed at the dark mark on his neck. “Look! It’s all dark and big and everyone will see it!”

Matt wrapped his arms around Corey and placed a gentle kiss on the mark he’d left on his husband’s fair skin. “I’m sorry baby; the hot shower you took must have brought out the color.”

“Everyone will see,” Corey whispered while holding onto Matt’s t-shirt.

Matt began running his hands up and down Corey’s back. “I’m sorry darling; I didn’t know it would upset you so.”

Corey lifted his head up and sighed. “I,” he hesitated before continuing, “I saw Nick with one a few weeks ago. When he wore a shirt it got covered up.”

“I know, I saw it too.”

Corey rubbed at his neck, his fingers pressing against the hickey, a slight blush on his face.

Matt tilted Corey’s chin up. “Would you prefer if I picked a better spot next time or not do it at all?”

Corey’s blush deepened but he didn’t break eye contact with his husband. “The former.”

They smiled at each other as Matt lowered his head to claim Corey’s lips in a kiss.

AJ laughed as Brian carefully grabbed his camera and began taking his picture.

“What’re you doing?” AJ asked as he tried to grab the camera back.

“No way Alex! You’ve taken enough pictures of me, now it’s my turn.”

AJ grinned and threw up his arms. “Ok ok!”

He spent the next fifteen minutes following Brian’s instructions and posing the way he wanted him to.

AJ eventually grabbed the camera back and changed a few settings before twisting it around and taking pictures of both of them together.

Brian wrapped his arms around AJ and pressed their cheeks together for a picture. AJ took the shot before turning to look at Brian who took advantage of AJ’s closeness and kissed him.

Matt smiled when he stepped out of his room and found Nick waiting outside.

“Hey Nickolas.”

Nick turned around and smiled. “Matthew!”

Matt wrapped his arm around Nick and squeezed gently.

Corey smiled when he saw them. Matt let go of Nick as Corey and Nick hugged.

“Hey Core,” Nick said softly while rubbing Corey’s back.

“Hi,” Corey whispered while grabbing a fistful of Nick’s shirt covered back.

They slowly pulled back. Nick’s eyes flew over Corey, cataloguing all the changes he already found in him. The noticeable difference was the beard burn on Corey’s cheeks and the dark love bite on his neck.

Corey blushed when he realized that Nick had noticed the hickey on him and raised his hand to cover it. Nick grabbed his hand and shook his head.

“Don’t.” He smiled and winked. “Looks good.”

Corey smiled shyly and lowered his arm.

Matt slid his arms around Nick and Corey. “Are we eating in my parent’s suite?”

Nick shook his head. “Nope, we’re eating in my room. I figured your parents could use their space to relax too.”

“Thanks Nicky,” Matt said gratefully.

Nick winked at him with a grin. “AJ and Brian are waiting in my room; Josh and Kevin were both on calls when I left so they’re probably there too. Kyle left for the airport this morning. Your parents saw him off.”

“I wish he could’ve stayed back with us today,” Corey said.

“He had to go fly straight to his next contract baby. We’ll meet him for dinner once we’re all back home,” Matt said before pressing a kiss against Corey’s hair.

Nick unlocked the door and pushed it open. Immediately a cheer rose up from their friends who had been patiently waiting for them.

Corey laughed in surprise as AJ, Josh, Brian and Kevin began spraying cans of silly string at them.


Matt laughed and hugged Corey to himself as his husband hid his face in his chest.

An hour later the seven friends were sitting comfortably around Nick’s room enjoying lunch together.

AJ laughed as Nick looked longingly at the dish containing green Thai chicken curry. He patted his arm consolingly and passed him the plate of paprika fries. Nick pouted before smiling at his friend.

Nick was very aware of the smiles and covert looks sent his way by their friends. He was sitting crossed legged on his bed while Kevin sat on the ground at the foot of the bed with his legs stretched out in front of him. He wished someone would realize how close AJ and Brian were sitting and shift their attention to them.

When AJ caught his eye it was like his friend knew what he was thinking and slowly shook his head. Nick bit back a sigh and nodded slightly. He pressed his toe against Kevin’s shoulder and yelped when his boyfriend tugged on his foot.

Corey looked away from his conversation with Josh and laughed when he saw Kevin trying to yank Nick off the bed.

“Get him Kevin!” he cheered.

Nick laughed and called Corey a traitor as he set his plate down and slid off the bed.

“Anyone ever tell you you’re a brat?” Nick asked as Kevin grabbed Nick’s plate and held it out to him.

Kevin pretended to think. “Why yes, you have, several times.”

Nick rolled his eyes and pressed his thigh against Kevin’s. “Brat.”

“Only for you,” Kevin said softly before pressing his lips against Nick’s jaw.

Nick smiled and ducked his head down to finish his meal all the while hoping that his cheeks weren’t as flushed as he thought they might be.

Brian couldn’t stop staring at the man lounging on the couch in his room, laptop balanced on his knees while he worked. The tattoos on his arm just added to his appeal.

Brown eyes looked up and caught blue ones.

AJ grinned, “I can feel you looking at me. Is there something you need?”

Brian almost blushed at being caught. “Now that you mention it, there is something I need.”

AJ raised an eyebrow and waited.

Brian slid off the bed and stood in front of AJ. He gently trailed his finger along AJ’s cheek. “You. I need you.”

“Insatiable aren’t we?” AJ turned his head and nipped Brian’s finger.

Brian smiled and slid his finger into AJ’s mouth, “Are you complaining?”

Corey frowned as he looked at the clothes he’d neatly hung up while wondering what to wear for dinner. He gave up after a few minutes and grabbed his phone.

“Hello Mr. Sigmond.”

Corey grinned and rolled his eyes. “Hi Josh. I dunno what to wear for dinner.”

“If you want to be a little more formal you should wear the lemon linen shirt with the cream linen pants. If you want to be casual then the lemon t-shirt with shorts or with the drawstring pants.”

He frowned and poked at the shirt in front of him. “What are you wearing?”

“Blue linen shorts with a white t-shirt.”

Corey sighed. “Ok, thank you.”

Josh laughed, “Relax baby, this is your party. You can wear whatever you want to. You make anything look good.”

Corey smiled shyly and thanked his friend softly. He tossed his phone down onto the couch just as arms slid around his waist. His breath hitched in surprise before settling when Matt’s familiar scent pressed into him.

“Hi.” Cool lips pressed against his neck.

“Hi,” Corey said softly.

“You were gone when I woke up.”

Corey smiled at the slight pout he could hear in Matt’s voice. “I wanted to get changed. I was going to come wake you once I was ready.”

He resisted the urge to fidget, acutely aware of Matt’s hands on his bare stomach. He raised his arm and slowly slid his hand over Matt’s hair, enjoying the intimate moment with his husband.

“How many cameras do you own?” Brian asked AJ in wonder while watching him pack his digital camera case with two memory cards.

“Four, six if you count the ones on my phones,” AJ shrugged as he replied.

Brian stared incredulously at AJ who laughed when he caught the look.

“Portrait photography isn’t my hobby Brian; it’s my profession at the moment. I need those cameras.” He paused and shrugged as he took a seat on the bed. “I started out with my digital camera, then I bought my first DSLR when Nick forced me into charging our friends for the pictures I took. He and Corey bought me my second DSLR as a birthday present and Kevin got me that one.” He smiled at Brian, “So you see I have only bought two for myself.”

“You’re amazing,” Brian said while staring at AJ in fascination.

AJ laughed and shook his head. Brian continued staring at AJ while the other man stood up to continue packing away his belongings.

“Core the dads are headed downstairs,” Matt called out from the bedroom.

Corey who had been squinting at himself in the mirror nodded before realizing that Matt couldn’t see him. “Ok, I just need a few more minutes to get my contacts in!”

A moment later Matt entered the dressing area and smiled at Corey. “Everything ok? It doesn’t usually take you more than a few seconds to get them in.”

Corey sighed and shook his head. “The humidity and heat and all these plants everywhere have made my eyes feel dry and itchy. My contacts are mean to my itchy eyes.” He turned to Matt and pouted a little.

Matt rubbed Corey’s back. “Aww baby you don’t have to wear them. Just wear your glasses.”

Corey frowned. “I’ll look like a dork. What’ll your parents say?”

“They’ll be happy that their precious son in law isn’t irritating his eyes by wearing his contacts when he clearly shouldn’t be.”

Matt could tell that Corey wanted to give in. Deciding to make the decision for him, he gently took the little bubble of a lens from Corey’s finger and set it into the case before twisting the lid on.

“Do you want to carry your glasses along or just do without?”

Corey shrugged, “I’ll carry em along just in case.”

Matt drew Corey into his arms and licked his lower lip before sucking it into his mouth. Corey instinctively arched into Matt’s body before he remembered that they had to go and pulled back. He moaned as Matt began kissing his jaw.

“We have to go!” he groaned as Matt slid his arms under his shirt.

“We have time,” Matt disagreed.

Corey used his willpower and pulled himself out of Matt’s gentle hold. He poked his chest when he tried to come closer. “You stay right there mister! The dads are already downstairs. We are going to go join them.”

Matt grinned and held up his hands in surrender. “Ok whatever you say baby.”

With a suspicious look aimed in his direction Corey turned and hurried out of the bathroom followed by a smiling Matt.

Robert squeezed Nick’s arm. “Why didn’t you say anything when they went on about Kevin?”

Nick shrugged and wouldn’t meet his father’s eyes. “I didn’t want to embarrass them in front of you.”

Monique had several times made it a point to mention to him that Annaliese was out with Kevin. He wondered now if any of what she’d said had been true or she’d just been making sure the thought of Annaliese and Kevin stayed in his head so that he didn’t encourage Nick to spend time with him.

He sighed and rubbed Nick’s arm. “I’m sorry kid, if I’d have known Kevin’s in a relationship I would have discouraged Annaliese.”

Nick finally met his father’s eyes and smiled. He loved his father’s sense of morals. He had no doubt his dad wouldn’t have discouraged Annaliese if Nick had shown an interest in him too. But the fact that Kevin was in a relationship was reason enough.

“Love you Dad,” Nick said softly and allowed his father to tug him into a hug.

“Love you Nicky,” Robert held the back of Nick’s head and pressed a kiss against his hair.

A few minutes later Robert smiled as AJ joined them. “How are you Alex? I feel like I’ve barely seen you the past few days.”

Nick pressed his lips together to resist a smile and waited to see what AJ would say.

“I’ve been around; you’re the busy one between us Robert.”

Robert narrowed his eyes and surveyed the younger men in front of him. “Hmmm… I’ll be sure to pin you down with a concrete plan once we’re all back in LA.”

AJ nodded quickly, “That sounds good.” He hoped Nick wouldn’t mess things up by laughing. His friend wouldn’t last much longer with that smirk waiting to burst out of him.

“Alex!” Kevin joined them and grabbed AJ’s arm. “They are on their way down.”

“Oh! I’ll see you guys in a bit,” AJ excused himself and rushed off. “Thanks,” he whispered to Kevin as he moved past him.

Brian watched AJ rush out of the restaurant and moved to the side so that he’d be able to watch him work without getting in his way or distracting him.

He tried to figure out exactly what attracted him towards AJ and found it wasn’t just one thing. He was attracted to all of him that he’d discovered so far and wanted to discover a lot more.

Corey smiled as he stood between Richard and Jake as AJ took their picture.

“Doing ok?” Jake asked softly.

Corey looked up, met Jake’s grey eyes with a smile and nodded. “Thank you for this. It’s nice to have a more informal dinner with everyone.”

Jake smiled and nodded in acknowledgement.

Matt snuck a peek and smiled when he saw Richard’s hand over where Jake’s was resting on Corey’s back. “Lovebirds,” he said softly.

Corey looked between them in confusion when Richard and Jake began laughing. He raised his eyebrows at his husband who winked at mouthed ‘later’.

“You alright?” Kevin asked as he handed Nick a beer.

Nick nodded as he tapped his bottle against Kevin’s. “Dad just wanted to clear something up.” He frowned and looked around as he took a sip. “Do you see Monique and Annaliese around?”

Kevin shrugged and took a long sip from his bottle. “They left for LA this morning.”

Nick choked on his drink and coughed. He looked at Kevin through watery eyes. “You serious?”

Kevin frowned, “When have you known me to lie to you?”

Nick grinned and shook his head. “You know that’s not what I meant.”

“I am very serious. I saw them leave when I was in the lobby this morning.”

“Huh, I would’ve expected them to have stayed for tonight’s dinner.”

“Maybe they didn’t know about it,” Kevin suggested innocently.

Nick stared at Kevin and shrugged.

When AJ summoned them over for a picture he went with a light heart knowing that he didn’t have to be on his guard that night.

“Stop stop,” Corey said with a laugh as Jake tried to rearrange all of them for a group picture. He grinned, “We’re standing height wise! You gotta get a shot of this for me!”

Jake laughed and nodded as Kevin leaned forward to check what Corey was talking about.

From right to left they really had ended up in height order, shortest to tallest. Brian, AJ and Corey being similar in height, then Josh followed by Nick, Matt and Kevin who were similar in height.

He got a few shots of them height wise before they rearranged themselves for a few more pictures. Through it all there was much laughter and good natured ribbing between the friends which made Jake enjoy playing photographer.

“Hungry, hungry, hungry,” Nick chanted he slid into a chair next to Corey.

Josh laughed as Nick eyed the food on the plate in front of him. “Eat, eat, eat!”

Nick grabbed a slice of pizza off his plate and took a big bite of it, sighing as he began chewing. “Any plans after dinner?” he asked Josh.

“We could go clubbing or to the hotel bar or we could take a few drinks with us and go hang around the pool. It’s a warm night; it’ll be a nice change.”

“Oh pool totally, I’m in if you guys decide to go to the pool,” Corey said enthusiastically.

Josh and Nick turned and looked at him with raised eyebrows and smirks on their faces.


“Oh just, are you sure you want to come be with us rather than be alone with your Matt?” Josh asked mischievously.

Corey pressed his forehead down against the table with a laugh before lifting his head and sticking his tongue out at his friends. “Shut up!”

Matt squeezed Jake as he hugged him. “Thanks for everything Dad. I know I never need to thank you for anything; you do it out of love. But just this once, let me thank you.”

Jake smiled and kissed Matt’s forehead. “Just be happy Matty, that’s all the thanks I ever want.”

Matt smiled and pressed his cheek against his father’s before releasing him and taking a step back. “We’re going to change and head down to the pool for a little while. You and dad should join us if you’re not too tired.”

Jake laughed, “You really want us oldies to party with you guys?”

“Hey! Who’re you calling old baby?” Richard asked while wrapping Matt and Jake in a hug.

Matt laughed and pressed his cheek against Richard’s. “You tell him Dad!”

Richard tightened his arm around Jake. “We’ve only just got our brat married off and you’re already calling me old J?”

Jake rolled his eyes. “Save me from the drama! How about you’re not old, I am?”

Matt shook his head, “No way! One can’t work without the other. Either you’re both old or not.”

Jake couldn’t help but laugh as he took in the sparkle in his son and husband’s eyes. “I give up! We’re not old. You my love are as much of a brat and drama king as you were when we first met.”

Richard winked at his son and smiled proudly at his husband. “Thank you for admitting it.”

“So how about it Dad? Joining us?”

“Oh are you guys coming to the pool?” Corey asked as he joined them.

Matt peered into the bowl in Corey’s hand, “I’m trying to convince them to. What is that?”

Corey raised a spoonful and offered it to Matt. “Mango gelato.”

Jake laughed at the look on his son’s face after he tasted the gelato. “Not your thing sweetheart.”

Corey grinned. “Please come if you’re not tired. Kevin’s got them to serve some of the dessert and drinks and stuff by the pool.”

“I’m convinced,” Robert said while looking at Jake.

Jake sighed and smiled. “We’ll meet you down there. Which pool?”

Corey looked at them in confusion. “Umm… there’s more than one?”

“The one that’s on the other side of the pool bar,” Matt said helpfully.

“Ok we’ll meet you there,” Jake said.

Matt watched his parents move away to wish the rest of their guests goodnight. He turned back to see that Corey had finished off his ice cream and was ready to go.

Corey yawned as he pressed himself into Matt’s side as they walked back to their room. Matt wrapped his arm around Corey and squeezed him gently.


“A little,” he said softly.

Matt rubbed his hand along Corey’s side. “I’m not surprised. The next few days are going to be pure relaxation; you’ll finally get a break.”

Corey leaned up and kissed Matt’s cheek. “Love you Matt.”

Matt smiled and brushed his lips against Corey’s. “Love you my own.”

An hour later AJ, Nick and Corey stared in surprise as Jake stripped off his t-shirt and dove into the pool. Josh laughed as he looked at them.

“Didn’t realize how fit he is?” Josh asked with a grin.

“Oh wow!” Nick whistled. “I knew he was fit but wow ok, wow!”

“There’s fit and then there’s that!” Corey said wide eyed. “He’s all abs and biceps!” He immediately looked down at his own flat stomach and started poking at it until AJ smacked his hand away.

“What non existent fat are you poking at Sigmond?”

Corey pouted, “I have no abs!” he wailed.

Nick, AJ and Josh groaned simultaneously.

“Here Core,” Nick quickly handed his friend a glass of champagne.

Corey gratefully accepted the glass and sighed. “I think I’m a tiny bit drunk Nicky.”

Nick smothered a grin and wrapped an arm around his friend when Corey rested his head on Nick’s shoulder. “That’s ok Core, as long as you’re having fun it’s all good.”

Richard smiled as Jake swam up to him. “You have an audience.” He grinned at Jake’s raised eyebrow. “I think you gave Corey and his little gang a bit of a shock when you stripped off.”

Jake rolled his eyes, “Yeah right.”

Richard laughed and grabbed Jake’s hand, squeezing it gently. “I’m not messing with you love.”

Jake ran his free hand over his face before slicking his hair back up off his forehead. “That’s embarrassing.”

Richard tugged his husband closer. “Why? You’re a handsome man J and you work hard to stay fit. Nothing wrong with them appreciating that.”

Jake shook his head with a laugh. “You never let my smile leave for long Rich.”

“I love your smile, I like seeing it,” Richard said softly, tracing his thumb over Jake’s lips.

Jake gently kissed his thumb. They turned when they heard a laugh and found Corey laughing as the bubbles in his glass tickled his nose. Nick met Jake’s eyes and winked before turning his attention to his best friend.

A little while later Corey sat at the edge of the pool kicking his legs back and forth in the water. He yawned tiredly and lay back, blinking as the sky came into focus.

He smiled when Richard came into his line of sight. “Hi,” he said sweetly.

“Hey kid,” Richard said. “What’re you doing?”

“Waiting for Matt.”

Richard took a quick look around and found his son a little ways away with Kevin.

“He’s looking for my flip flops. I dunno where I left em.”

As Richard watched Corey struggled to keep his eyes open and seemed to be on the verge of sleep.

“Found them Core!”

Corey and Richard turned their head to see Nick walking towards them with a pair of neon green flip flops in his hand.

Nick set the flip flops down and held his hand out to Corey to help him up. Richard followed his lead and grabbed Corey’s other arm. Corey stood up and leaned sleepily against Richard as Nick quickly ran a towel over his legs and helped him slip his feet into his flip flops.

“Is he ok?” Richard mouthed to Nick.

Nick smiled and nodded. “Very tired,” he mouthed back.

“You want your shirt Core?” Nick asked gently.

“I want my bed Nicky,” Corey said, already half asleep. Richard’s arm around him seemed to be the only thing holding him up.

“Will you go ahead with him?” Nick asked Richard. “I’ll grab the rest of his stuff together.”

“I don’t want you staying down here alone Nick.”

Nick smiled, “Kevin, Brian and AJ are here with me. Go ahead.”

“Alright, thank you,” Richard called out as he began guiding Corey away from the pool.

Nick watched them with a smile on his face before turning away to gather the rest of their things together.

Jake tapped Matt’s shoulder. “He’s wearing flip flops Matty.”

Matt looked up and laughed when he saw Corey with his bright green flip flops on his feet.

“Where’d you find them?” he asked as he stood up from where he’d been kneeling on the ground to look under the loungers.

“Nick found them,” Richard said.

“I knew I should’ve just followed Nick,” Matt said with a laugh.

“Let’s get him up,” Jake said softly when he realized how tired Corey must be to be so at ease with Richard.

Richard took a careful step forward and sighed in relief when Corey moved with him. Corey opened his eyes and reached out to Matt when he saw him. Matt was immediately at his side.

“I’m sorry,” Corey mumbled as he rubbed his aching head.

“Nothing for you to be sorry for kiddo,” Richard said softly.

Between them Richard and Matt easily got Corey up the stairs and into the lobby. Jake moved around them and pressed the elevator button.

“Is your head hurting Corey?” Jake asked softly when he noticed Corey kept pressing his knuckles against his forehead.

Corey nodded slowly. “Eyes and head.”

“He didn’t wear his contacts; it could be because of that. His eyes have felt dry and itchy,” Matt said.

“I’m sure he must have his eye drops with him. Help him use them and get some water into him. He didn’t eat much at dinner,” Jake said with a sigh.

Matt handed his wallet to father who quickly found his room key and got the door open. He held the door open while switching on a few lights.

“Here we are little Prince,” Richard said softly while carefully guiding Corey to the couch.

Corey forced his eyes open and blinked up at his family. “I’m sorry,” he whispered.

Matt knelt in front of Corey and cupped his face. “Hey baby you’ve done nothing that requires an apology.”

Jake squeezed Matt’s shoulder. “He’s overtired Matt. Just get him changed and let him sleep. If he’s ok to eat then get a little food into him.”

Corey’s eyes flickered up to meet Jake’s. Jake smiled reassuringly and sat down next to Corey.

“You’re not mad at me?” Corey asked softly.

Jake rubbed Corey’s back, “Not at all Corey.”

“Do you want me to get Nick for you Core?”

It took Corey a minute to process what Matt was asking. He blinked slowly as he looked away from Jake and into Matt’s eyes. He licked his lips and blinked rapidly a few times to wake himself up a little.

“Baby? Do you want Nick here?” Matt asked again.

Corey shook his head before wincing and raising his hand to press against his forehead.

Matt looked a little lost as he met Jake’s eyes.

Jake reached out and squeezed his wrist. “Get Corey into the shower and wash the chlorine off, keep the water warm. Get him in bed, put his eye drops in, make him drink a little water and let him sleep. He’s just overtired Matt. Add to that he hasn’t been eating much, no wonder he’s feeling this way.”

“Call us if you need us,” Richard said handed Matt a glass of water.

“Thanks,” Matt said gratefully.

“Goodnight son,” Jake said softly before hugging Corey gently.

Matt carefully pressed the glass against Corey’s lips and held on as he drank the water.

He stood up and tugged Corey up. A short while later he had managed to get Corey showered and in bed. Corey was watching him from where he was reclined against two pillows.

Corey trailed his fingers up and down Matt’s thigh while Matt went through his medicine kit and pulled out his eye drops. Carefully he got two drops into each eye and stroked Corey’s damp hair back.

“Not mad at me?” Corey asked carefully.

Matt smiled and helped Corey lay back, tugging the sheet up and under his chin. “Mad about you.” He pressed a soft kiss against Corey’s lips. “I love you Corey.”

“Love you Matt mine.

“Core ok?” AJ asked Nick as they walked to their rooms.

“Yup, just really tired, a little tipsy, probably hungry,” Nick replied.

AJ glanced behind them at Kevin and Brian who were out of earshot. “Maybe we shouldn’t have let him drink.”

Nick shook his head. “Matt gave him a drink and he wanted them. He’s fine J, probably just overwhelmed with everything. Jake and Richard seemed totally cool when they left with him. And they are really nice people, totally non-judgemental.”

AJ took Nick’s word for it and nodded his head.

Nick nudged AJ as they got into the elevator. “We’re not leaving without seeing him tomorrow even if that means waking him up.”

AJ nudged Nick back. “Good, I’m glad.”

“Glad about what?” Brian asked as he and Kevin entered the elevator.

“That you guys are so slow, it gave us time to gossip about you,” AJ replied.

Brian laughed and wiggled his eyebrows, “Ohhh!”

The four friends parted at their rooms with calls of ‘goodnight’ ringing the air.

Chapter End Notes:
So this is it, the end of With this ring. I'm sorry for any errors and would appreciate it if you point out any you find to me so that I can correct it. I've read this chapter at least 20 times and can't anymore.

Thank you for the encouragement, best wishes, company and friendship you guys have offered us. For me this was just something to help CJ with since it was a hobby that J was very passionate about. The more I read his notes and understood what he was trying to create I realized that each character in their stories represents someone in their life. A sweet way to express their love toward their friends.

The next chapter in the Ideal Marriage story is supposed to be AJ & Brian's story which spans 12 months immediately after With this ring. It's based mostly on them with appearances by Nick & Kevin. So it's a choice now. This story wasn't even supposed to be written. It's something J started out of boredom in the hospital and managed to finish half with CJ. We've completed it.

Should we be posting An Ideal Marriage? Nick & Kevin's story next or AJ & Brian's? AJ & Brian's story has 4 chapters and is complete. It'll take me 2 months to finish posting it, 2 chapters a month.

Based on your emails/reviews I'll take a call accordingly.