This is a work of fiction. Any similarities between the characters in this story and real people (appearances, names, etc.) are purely coincidental.
This story may contain homosexual material, including love and sex, so if material like this is illegal in your region or if it discomforts you, please leave.

Somewhere A Clock Is Ticking

"Okay, class," Garett Philan said to his students, "who can tell me the two types of nucleons?"

A young lady raised her hand and answered, "Protons and neutrons, Mr. Philan."

"Very good, Charlotte. And what's the least amount of protons present in the nucleus of an atom?"

A young man raised his hand and answered, "One, sir."

"Good, thank you, Cody. Now who can tell me who discovered--"

Gunshots sounded throughout the halls of Abraham Lincoln High School, causing every student and teacher to jump in startle. The second it registered what was happening, everybody fell to the floor, adrenaline and fear causing their bodies to tremble.

Silence. Garett Philan heard nothing but the heavy breathing of his students, and his own as well.

"Shh," he said to a young lady by the name of Koral Richards, who was beginning to whimper.

Garett startled violently when the school's alarm suddenly went off. At least someone was able to pull the switch, and it wouldn't be long before the authorities reacted to the threat and emergency.

"M-Mr. Philan," another young lady called Megan Carson whispered tearfully, shaking violently on the floor.

Before Garett could do or say anything, the classroom door opened with gunfire followed right after. Screams of terror erupted from each student and Garett. In walked two people, men by the looks of their body type, wearing identical black long sleeve tees with black jeans and shoes and motorcycle helmets.

The first of the two men pointed his AR-15 .223 rifle at Garett on the floor, using the firearm to motion to Garett to sit in his chair. When Garett was at his desk, the second of the men handed him a cell phone that was already turned on. When Garett studied the screen, the phone number entered was familiar to him. He looked up at the man who handed him the phone. The man gave a single ominous nod of the head, and Garett hit the 'Call' button.

"Hello," Johnathan Cooke answered his cell with a voice of alarm and agitation.

"John," Garett said quietly with a lot of fear.

"Garett!" John cried with relief in his voice. "What's going on? Whose cell are you using? We just got the call to head over to your school."

Glancing at the gunmen, Garett said, "Sie haben eine Waffe auf mich." (They have a gun on me.)

A hostage speaking in a foreign language set off an alarm in the gunmen's heads, bringing one of them to stick the barrel of his rifle on Garett's head.

"What? Who?" John asked with alarm. "Are they students?"

"Ich weiß es nicht," Garett answered nervously. "Sie tragen Masken und noch nicht gesprochen. Aber sie sehen aus wie Männer." (I don't know. They wear masks and have not yet spoken. But they look like men.)

The first gunman lowered his rifle, but instead swiftly used the butt to hit Garett on the temple. Garett dropped the cell phone upon impact and knocking unconscious. The gunman then grabbed the phone back up and ended the call.

Thirteen years ago...

"Hey," John said with a smile to one of his male classmates, "wanna be partners?"

Garett smiled back at the young man and held his hand out. "Sure. I'm Garett."

John's smile grew as the two shook hands. "John. It's a real pleasure meeting you."

"Likewise," John said with a quieter, more sultry voice. "This is quite the first day of school, already handed a project."

"Yeah, no doubt," said John. "So where do you think we should do this? Here on campus? Starbucks? My place or yours?"

Garett let out a little chuckle and answered, "How about at Starbucks? And then maybe we can go back to my place."

John looked directly into Garett's eyes as he said back, "I think I'd like that. There's a Starbucks on 9th & Howard. You drive?"

"Yeah, you?"

"Yeah, you wanna follow?"

While in the car, John called his roommate. "Hannah, do you think you can be not in the apartment for a couple hours?"

"John!" Hannah Sawyer scolded her friend. "This is your second hookup in two weeks! Don't become a slut!"

"Hannah, relax! I'm open to a relationship when I meet the right guy, but we humans have needs."

"Fine. But this is the last time."


"Hey Garett," Lindsay Yong answered her own phone.

"I'm gonna need you out of the apartment in an hour or so," Garett told Lindsay.

"Gay men suck!" Lindsay cursed. "I have work anyway."

When John arrived at the coffee shop, he saw Garett was the third from last in the line of customers. He went up to the man and said, "My treat. What'll ya have?"

Garett turned to the man with a smile and said, "No I got it, what can I get you?"

John offered a bright smile and said, "A grandé skinny hazelnut latte, please."

With a grin, Garett told him, "Similar tastes. My usual is the hazelnut cappuccino."

With a cocky smile, John said, "Maybe we have a lot more in common."

"Hmm," Garett said teasingly, "maybe one other thing."

John let out a laugh and said, "Probably."

After Garett paid for their drinks the two young men sat at a table with a couple of leather cushioned chairs.

"How do you want to do this?" Garett asked John as he rose his cup to his mouth.

"If you want the footage to be a higher quality I can drive home and pick up my video camera. If you don't really care about that, we can use either of our phone cameras."

"I don't think I have time for you to get your camera," Garett said politely. "I have work in two hours. And I don't really care for the quality anyway."

"May I ask where you work?"

"Sure." Garett replied smartly.

John waited a few moments for Garett to answer. But he realized that the young man was being a smart ass.

"Where do you work?" John asked with a bit of laughter. "Dick."

Garett laughed as well, and responded, "I'm a keyholder at Banana Republic."


"It's the lowest managerial position in the store. But I do have an interview next week because the current merchandise presentation manager will be leaving."

With wide eyes, John said, "We should be getting this on camera! We should make a list of questions."

Ten minutes later found Garett and John sitting face to face in their chairs, with Garett's cell phone propped up on the table by text books. Only Garett was in the shot, as John was conducting his interview first.

"Good afternoon, can we start with your full name?"

"My name is Garett Michael Philan. I am twenty-one-years-old."

"Garett, what are you studying?"

"I am studying biology at the University of San Francisco."

"Could you tell me about your educational background?"

"This is my third year studying biology. During my last two years of high school and first two of university I studied the German language."

"What career are you aiming for?"

"I am studying to become a teacher."

"What is it about this career path that requires you to take the Communications 101 class?"

"Teachers are required to have these communications skills. They have to know how to talk with people through voice, and written reports, and other written correspondence like e-mails and letters."

"Aside from studying at the USF, are you working?"

"Yes, I am a keyholder at Banana Republic. A keyholder is the lowest managerial position at Gap Inc."

"Do you have any plans of gaining a higher managerial position at your store? And Gap Inc. is the mother company of Banana Republic?"

"Gap Inc. owns The Gap, Baby Gap, Banana Republic, Old Navy, Piperlime, and Athletica. I have applied to the merchandise presentation managerial position."

"What previous work experience do you have under your belt?"

"For three years, from sophomore year of high school to freshman of uni I was a barista at Starbucks. The summer between freshmen and junior years of uni I decided I wanted a change so I applied to Banana Republic. For the first three months at Banana Republic I was a sales associate before being asked to keyhold."

"And what are the duties and responsibilities of being a keyholder at Banana Republic?"

"Opening managers are responsible for assigning cleaning duties, correspondence with district management, double checking the previous day's sales and profits, and if we have the time help the staff clean the store.
"Day managers are mainly responsible for supervising the sales associates as they assist customers, assigning employees for product replenishment, and weekly schedule drafting for the general manager to approve and submit.
"Closing managers are responsible for assigning cleaning duties, correspondence with district management, closing of registers, and leaving notes for the next day's opening manager."

"Sounds like managers have little to do."

"Not at all. We also help with customers if necessary, although protocol is to guide the customer to a sales associate. We also do menial tasks like folding clothes, tidying piles, filling racks, keeping the store clean and presentable."

"What would be your responsibilities should you be chosen as the new merchandise presentation manager?"

"I would be in charge of how product is displayed and stocked on the sales floor. I would be the person saying, 'This sweater can sit on that table in a long half fold' or 'That coat can be hung with the zip undone'. I'd decide how to dress the mannequins. I'd change the look of the store and furniture or help an employee with it if I'm too busy to do it myself."

"Last question, Mr. Philan. How does your current career choice differentiate from your dream job as a kid?"

"When I was a kid I wanted to be a cop. Back then they seemed so brave and courageous. Growing up they seemed to get more and more aggressive and not in a good way. They seemed corrupt. I once saw a couple of officers kick a homeless man's legs just because the man was homeless. They were walking, patrolling I guess, and as they passed the man, one kicked his upper leg and other kicked his shin. So that just ruined police work for me."

With a grin, John said, "Well thank you for your time, Mr. Philan."

When John ended the recording, Garett asked with laughter, "What the hell was that grin for!?"

"You'll see in my interview. So, shall we get going? I still think it'll look better if we do the interview in the library."

"No. Trust me, it'll look stunning if we do it in Union Square."

John gave in, trusting Garett's taste and judgement. So the pair drove and met at Union Square.

As John sat and situated himself on a step, Garett set up his phone camera to get the Dewey Monument in the background.

"Hello," Garett began the interview. "Can you please tell me your full legal name and age?"

"I am Johnathan William Cooke, and I am twenty-one-years-old."

"What is your field of study, Mr. Cooke?"

"I am taking police studies and psychology."

"What previous education do you have prior to this?"

"For one semester I studied business, majoring in marketing. But a month into the program I realized I wasn't interested in it. I realized I'd be getting bored every day of work in that career. This is my third year of psychology and police studies."

"What profession are you striving toward with these two fields?"

"I am planning to start off as a police officer, getting the experience for a year or two. Then for another year or so, a sergeant. I eventually want to work as a police negotiator."

"Can you explain why police work requires the skills gained in Communications 101?"

"As with almost every other profession, a police officer must be able to speak clearly, write concise reports, know how to handle certain situations, and read literature and people effectively."

"Are you currently employed in addition to your post-secondary education?"

"Yes, I work afternoons, evenings, and weekends in construction."

"Do you have any past work experience on your résumé?"

"No. I've been working in construction since freshman year of university."

"When you were a child, what was your dream job, and why aren't you striving for that now?"

"When I was a kid I wanted to be a heroic firefighter. They looked so big and manly and important. But when I was seven my aunt died in a house fire. You'd think that that would solidify my choice to become a firefighter, but I've actually been afraid of being one."

"I am so sorry to hear that, John."

Garett stopped recording at that point. John smiled and said, "Thank you, but it's okay."

"I'm still sorry. So I'll edit these tonight and I'll email them to Professor Pitenko straight away."

John offered Garett a sexy smirk before stepping toward him and touching their lips together. John kept their lips in contact for just a couple of seconds, maybe three, and then tried to back off. But Garett quickly grabbed his head and began a passionate French kiss.

Garett suddenly pulled out of the kiss and said, "I have to go work. I wish I could skip but I have to go work. Oh, my god I have to go work. Here's my number and address, be at my place tonight at nine.

John, turned on beyond control, kept physical contact with Garett by hooking his middle finger on a belt loop of Garett's grey dress pants as Garett wrote his phone number and address.

Garett went off to work, his cock still straining to be freed from the confines of his trousers. And John went home, to rest before his late afternoon-evening shift at the construction site. John had been sitting at the kitchen table working on psych homework when the apartment door deadbolt unlocked.

"Oh hey," said John's roommate Hannah as she walked into the kitchen. "How was your little tryst?"

"Didn't happen," John explained with a smile. "He had to go work. But I'm heading over to his place tonight. I hope he doesn't mind the smell of sweat."

"What time is your shift over tonight?"

"I'm working til the end of the day, so around nine."

"Well I was serious when I said this was the last time I'm leaving the apartment for your sexual needs. This still counts. This still counts!"

John sighed, but gave in and nodded his head once. As he read a paragraph from his textbook he ran his fingernails on his scalp. In doing so, he realized that he needed a haircut. You see, John kept his light blonde hair in a buzz so short he was practically bald.

"Will you cut my hair? Please!" John added when seeing Hannah was about to protest. "Please? I'll be so self-conscious about it tonight."

That night, when John and his coworker Trevor finished installing drywall in the living room of the house being built, he looked at the time on his cell phone. Upon seeing at was ten minutes to nine, he told his boss that he was done for the night. Dale Sanders told John that the team only had to finish installing one piece of drywall and they were done for the night, so John could leave.

Twelve minutes later, John took the piece of paper out of his wallet to see which apartment number Garett was in. He dialled 0406.

Garett had just entered his apartment and was about to close his door when the buzzer went. He smiled to himself and answered, "Hello?"

"Hi, it's just John here."

"Uhh... John?" Garett faked unknowing.

"John. From... John from USF."

Garett laughed and said, "You sound so cute when you're embarrassed! Come on up."

When John knocked at Garett's door, Garett loosened his neck tie, undid the top two buttons of his shirt and answered the door. His face dropped at the sight before him. John looked incredible! His white wife beater had black and grey smudges of dirt, and his skin was littered with paint.

John was speechless himself at the sight of Garett. Garett's light grey suit was slim, perfectly fitting his toned body. His cobalt blue dress shirt brought out the blue in his eyes, and the purple neck tie didn't stand out too much. John lost it completely when Garett took the band off the bun his hair was in and shook his head.

"How a--"

Garett couldn't get another word out as John had smashed their lips together in a heated and hungry kiss. Garett pulled the man into his apartment, making extra sure that their lips remained in contact.

As John slid Garett's suit jacket of his shoulders, he whispered, "You're so damn sexy."

Garett smiled into the kiss and shook his head slightly.

"You're the sexy one," Garett whispered back as he brought his lips to John's neck.

John brought their lips back together and loosened Garett's tie further to remove it. When he did so he slowly unbuttoned the rest of Garett's shirt. When he slid the shirt off, Garett grabbed the hem of John's wife beater and pulled it up off his body.

Garett's lust drove into overload upon seeing and feeling John's muscular body. John's chest was big and firm, and slightly furry with light blonde hair that drove Garett even further into a state of lust. That little patch of blonde hair trailed in a thin line down his sculpted six-pack abs, into a treasure trail into his slim denim.

"John bent his back slightly and brought his lips onto Garett's left nipple, immediately rewarded with a moan and his head being pushed firmer into the man's body. As his tongue ravaged the young man's nipples his hands roamed the body, exploring every ridge of toned muscle and revelling in the smoothness of the skin.

Garett lifted John's head, almost not wanted to as he loved having his nipples played with, and led the both of them into his bedroom. There, John leaned forward forcibly, effectively making Garett fall backward onto his bed. John used his knees to separate Garett's legs, and leaned his pelvis down to rub their clothed crotches together.

After a few minutes of making out and grinding on each other, John kissed Garett's body as he undid the man's belt and trousers, taking his sweet time to touch his lips to every abdominal muscle visible on the thin but muscular man.

"Ahhh John," Garett moaned in a whisper, his heart racing.

John swiftly slid the man's trousers down his legs and off his ankles, throwing them haphazardly, uncaring of where they landed. He grabbed the man's throbbing 6 inch cock at the base and didn't waste a second putting his lips around the mushroom head. He let saliva trickle out from his lips, watching it slide down the rigid shaft, and spreading it with his hand. John slowly slid his lips further down Garett's prick, keeping eye contact.

Garett gazed directly into John's green eyes, his mouth open with his slow, controlled breathing. He let out a slow moan as John very slowly inched his entire shaft down his throat. When John's chin touched the sac of Garett's, he moaned, deliberately making his throat vibrate on Garett's thick cock.

Garett couldn't take it anymore. He grabbed John's head and gently lifted him off his aching dick. He had to, before he nutted. And he didn't want to nut. Not yet. So he placed his hands in John's armpits, guiding him up. John stood to his feet, and then realized that Garett wanted him to remove his pants.

"Slowly," Garett asked in a husky tone as he slowly rubbed his hot cock.

Standing right above Garett, John unhurriedly unfastened his button fly, making sure Garett could hear every button coming undone. When his fly was undone, John slid his hand down his pants, making a show of stroking his hard cock confined in his jeans. He only stroked for a few seconds, the desire being a little too much for him. He removed his pants and boxer briefs in one motion and straddled Garett's shoulders. He pointed his 6.5 inch member at Garett's waiting mouth, watching as he inched it into lips.

John chortled and said, "I think you're better at deep-throating than I am."

Garett smiled as John continued to gently rock his hips, pumping his cock in and out of Garett's throat. Garett reached his hands up, his left hand grasping John at the balls and his right squeezing the ass. Garett sucked a little harder with lust, loving the big, egg-sized balls in his hand.

After a few minutes, John suddenly went wide-eyed and quickly pulled out of Garett's mouth. He inhaled deeply and then chuckled.

"Damn," John said. "Close. Close."

John slid his body down Garett's, kissing the skin along the way. He lifted Garett's legs up to his chest, diving his face down into Garett's ass. His tongue swiped up along Garett's smooth crack, teasing.

"Fucking eat me out," Garett begged.

John smiled, but flicked his tongue on Garett's puckered and hungry hole, slowly driving his tongue deeper and deeper into Garett. Garett's right hand grasped his throbbing cock, and his left rested on John's head as he tongue-fucked his ass.

"Oh, my god," Garett whispered to himself. "Come here."

John climbed up to Garett, who placed one hand on his neck and the other on his hip as their lips met in a passionate kiss. The guys made out for a few minutes, John lying on top of Garett holding each other close, neither touching any cocks no matter how desperately they wanted to.

Finally, John raised his head away from Garett just enough to look at his face directly. He spit into his palm, getting a good amount of his and Garett's saliva pooled in there. He slowly brought his hand to his rigid dick, spreading the liquid generously to the head and shaft.

John stopped all motion, instead fully focusing on the face of the man under him. Garett's face displayed lust, and excitement, and hunger. Garett's right hand held John's left wrist, which was resting on the side Garett's stomach, eager. His left hand rested John's left thigh by his own butt.

John pressed the tip of his cock against Garett's anus, not yet applying enough force to penetrate. He just teased Garett for a moment or two. And on a back stroke, when his cock was no longer in contact with Garett's hole, John spit directly onto the puckered skin.

Garett let out a moan, his hands involuntarily squeezing on John. But Garett loved this feeling, having a man enter him. He liked the slight sting of penetration. He never lost eye contact with John.

John had to fight to control the urge to slide his prick further into Garett. It was so tight, so warm, so welcoming. And so was the look Garett was giving him, especially so with the way Garett held onto him.

Garett moved his thumb up and down on John's leg, somehow comforting the man. Feeling this, John had no choice but to lean down and bring his lips onto Garett's. Garett rose his hands again to hold John closer by the neck. Their tongues danced as their lips swayed in passion.

John gently rocked his pelvis back and forth, gently, losing himself in the sweetness, deliciousness of Garett's lips. Never separating their lips, John slowly slid his left down from Garett's face, over his neck, caressed his chest, wrapped that arm around Garett's back and hugged him close as he made love to the man.

As John rose his head away from his, Garett looked up into his eyes. They stared, gazed into each other's eyes and got lost in them. John continued to gently rock his hips, his eyes studying the brilliance in Garett's green eyes.

Garett grabbed John by the neck again and pulled him down for another kiss. And as they kissed, Garett pushed John to sit on his legs, keeping their lips connected in their passionate kiss. Garett now sat on John's lap, his arms around John's neck with John's around his middle, John's cock nestled in Garett's ass. As they continued to kiss, Garett slowly rose his body off of John's cock, then quickly sat back down.

John smiled into the kiss as he let out a moan. He pressed his lips firmer onto Garett's when he felt Garett slide his legs to wrap around his waist, their bodies coming together even closer. John absolutely loved the feeling of Garett's swimmer build body, the smooth skin and firm muscles rubbing up against him fully as Garett gently rode him.

Unable to take the lack of air anymore, Garett tore his lips from John's, though he wanted very much not to. So John instead brought his lips to Garett's left ear. He licked at the lobe, swiping it with his tongue once. Then he gently nibbled on it. That elicited a moan from Garett who held onto John tighter.

John, as he started rocking his hips back and forth, rested the side of his face against Garett's toned chest, rubbing his cheek against Garett's nipple.

After a few minutes, Garett used the full weight of his upper body to push John to lie down on his back. John let his legs lie limp as Garett started rocking his own hips back and forth. John grabbed Garett by the elbow and pulled him down. Garett smiled as he leaned down, giving John a rather hot French kiss.

John slid his hands down from Garett's middle, to his glutes where he grabbed each mound and spread them apart. Doing this, John started rapidly fucking Garett, going deeper inside than before. Garett's breathing became rapid in the pleasure he was receiving on the inside as well as John's big balls slapping his ass cheeks.

"Ah, John, I'm gonna cum," Garett whispered with an urgency in his voice.

With his forehead pressed against John's, Garett blew his load on John's ripped body. The first shot hit John's chest. The second and third sprayed John's upper abs. The rest dribbled over John's pubes.

Garett was still trembling with the aftershocks of his orgasm when John tiled his head up so that their lips met once again. John doubled the speed at which his cock jabbed at Garett's insides. In no time at all John told Garett that he was about to blow.

Garett whispered, "Cum inside me."

John and Garett gazed into each other's eyes then, with John's facial features screwing with the very close climax. Then his mouth hung open yet his jaw clenched as his orgasm hit. And hit. Hard.

John moved not an inch as he came, but Garett did. Garett continued to rock his hips back and forth, giving John such painful pleasure of his oversensitive cock.

"Stopstopstop," John whispered, his legs tensing.

Stop wasn't what Garett did. He smiled, kissing John's neck, and his hips still swayed.

John couldn't take it anymore. With his right hand he pushed Garett to the side off of him. He chuckled softly as he laid his head on Garett's chest and his left arm went around Garett's waist.

Garett was shocked, pleasantly, that John was a cuddler. This incredibly fit, super-hot, muscular construction worker of a college student was unafraid to be intimate during a one-night-stand.

There they laid, in Garett's queen-sized bed of utter softness and comfort, in the afterglow of sex, snuggly. John listened to Garett's heart beat as Garett absent-mindedly drew circles with his finger on John's back. Eventually John started brushing his finger through the trail of hair from Garett's navel to his pubes.

After a few minutes John said, "I think I'll be going now."

Before John completely removed himself from Garett's body he gave Garett a sweet peck on the lips.

With a smile, Garett said, "You are an odd one, Johnathan William Cooke."

As John put his underwear on he asked, "Why do you think so, Garett Michael Philan?"

"Just the amount of... affection you show."

"Oh sorry, hope I didn't freak you out or give the impression I wanted more than this."

Garett chuckled and said, "Nah you're good. I like it. Usually hookups are colder, you know."

"I hear ya. Any idea where my shirt is?"

"Think it's in the hall."

"Okay, well it was nice meeting you, Garett. I'll see you at school, I guess."

Before Garett could say his goodbyes to the man, he heard the door to his apartment opened.

"Oh!" Lindsay Yong said in startlement at seeing a stranger shirtless in her hallway.

"Hi," John said awkwardly. "I'm John."

Lindsay said, "Garett's john is named John. Nice. Well, have a good night."

John wasn't slow to grab his shirt from the floor and he didn't bother to put his shoes on but rather grabbed them and went out the door.

Two days later, five minutes before Communications 101, the class the boys shared, was the first time they saw each other since that night. John smiled brightly at Garett, unable to help it.

'Fuck it,' John said in his head.

John weaved through the student body in the hall to Garett. His smile never faltered.

"John," Garett greeted with a small but warm smile. "This is my friend Francis."

"Hello suga," Francis said in her La Bronx accent.

John offered the young woman a smile and nod, but turned back to Garett and said, "Can I take you to dinner some time?"

Garett's smile dropped in shock and he said, "Huh? John, we had a one-off."

John's smile grew bigger and he said, "I'd intended it to be nothing but that. Believe me, I did. But you're constantly in and out of my mind. I'll ask one more time, and if you say No I'll never ask again. Garett, one date. That'll be more than enough for you to fall for me."


Truth be told, Garett had intended to say yes to the date. But he didn't like how cocky John got.

"Okay, I understand. Thank you for emailing the final videos. You've done a wonderful job editing them."

"Thank you! I'm proud of them."

John laughed and said, "Don't be modest! Seriously, if we get anything below a ninety on this assignment I'll be fucking surprised."

And the two young men did receive a ninety-two on their video interview assignment. But for Garett it was a tiny bit awkward to work with John.

John, on the other hand, was very much at ease. It was just another day to him. Though Garett tried to hide his discomfort, John could feel it. It was entertaining, however slightly.

"I'll go out with you," Garett suddenly told John a week later.

John turned around a little stunned.

"Okay," John said slowly as a genuine smile of happiness formed. "I'll text you."

Garett was a little insulted that John just turned right back around and continued talking with a young woman. He also wondered if John even still had his number.

"So you're telling me you have no memories before waking up in the park?"

The young woman was about to answer, but Garett spun John around to face him, and pressed their lips together so fast John didn't know what was happening.

It took no time at all for John to kiss back. And he did so with a smile.

Pain woke Garett from unconsciousness. His sight told him that one of the helmeted gunmen had used the butt of his rifle to hit Garett upside the head again.

The other helmeted man handed Garett the cell phone back. Displayed on the screen of the phone was Notes.

'No deviations, Philan.
$2million by 2pm or a student dies every 15mins.'
was written on the screen.

Typed below that was John's cell phone number. It was a hypertext, so all he had to do was tap it for the call to go through. But Garett hesitated. His heart broke, yet raced with fear and adrenaline at the same time.

Garett jumped violently when a gunshot rang through the classroom and halls, causing the phone to fly up in the air. Luckily the first gunman was able to reach and catch the device.

With tears rolling down his face, Garett made the phone call.

"Garett!?" John answered his with utter urgency.

"Th-they want two m-million dollars," Garett said with the shakiest voice he'd ever had.

John turned to his partner with shock and fear.

"They've spoken!?" John asked with a broken voice.

"No. They're careful not to."

"W-what happens if we don't give 'em the two mill?"

"Ein Student stirbt alle fünfzehn Minuten." Garett decided to answer in German so that the students didn't get any more fearful than they needed to be. (A student dies every fifteen minutes.)

"Fuck," John whispered with thrice the amount of shock and fear. "Okay, what time do they want it by?"

"Two." Garett's voice was completely broken when he added, "John? Ich habe Angst. Ich bin so verängstigt." (I'm scared. I'm so scared.)

John, fighting his own tears as best as he could, said, "No. No. Don't be afraid, my love. Don't be afraid. I'm coming to get you. Okay?"

The gunman right at Garett's side made a circular motion with his hand, signalling that he wanted the call to end.

"Two o'clock, John. I love you."

Before John could say it back, the gunman snatched the phone from Garett's hand and ended the call.

John punched the dash of the car and cursed through clenched teeth as he controlled the tears.

John angrily grabbed the radio and said, "Inspector Cooke calling Chief Brodery, come in Chief Brodery."

"Brodery, go ahead, Cooke."

"Sir, Garett tells me there are two gunmen in his classroom but has heard gunfire from other parts of Lincoln. They want two mill by two."

"That's fucking two and a half hours!" Brodery shouted. "Do I want to know what happens if it doesn't happen?"

"A-a kid e-every fifteen, sir."

Chief Brodery didn't say anything into the radio at that moment, but cursed to the high heavens in his car.

"Cooke, you better be on your way to the God damned school!" Brodery shouted angrily, but then exhaled slowly to calm himself. "There were some students who got out not three minutes ago. See if you can get anything out of 'em."

John's partner parked the car outside of Lincoln High School where there were already a dozen squad cars with double the amount of officers. John signalled an officer over.

"What can you tell me?" John asked the woman. "And you better have something to tell me."

"Over a dozen kids ran out of the building about five minutes ago, sir," the officer explained. "None of 'em have said anything yet, they're too rattled. They're all over there."

The officer pointed to a section of the road where ambulances parked, with students being taken care of by medics and officers. Even from the thirty yard distance John could see the trembling limbs and floods of tears.

As he approached, John noticed one girl in particular. Her trembling wasn't nearly as bad as the other escapee students. Neither were her tears. Either she was handling the situation really well, or something else. John didn't know what to think. So he approached her first.

"Hello," he said, and she turned to him surprised. "I'm Inspector Cooke. But my husband calls me John. And my friends call me Johnny. And my parents call me Johnathan. So you can call me pretty much whatever you like."

"H-hi John. I'm M-Melissa."

"Hello Melissa. Now it would be pretty stupid of me to ask how you're doing considering what's happened in there. So I won't ask that. But I will ask where you were when the gunfire sounded?"

Melissa's lips closed in a tight, thin line as more tears formed in her eyes. It took a few moments for her to gather herself.

"My boyfriend goes to school at Galileo, and I-I-I was dropping him off. But d-during the ride there we got in a big argument. So I came late. I'd just parked my car and was making my way to the school when I heard the gun shots."

"So you weren't able to see anyone?"

Melissa shook her head no, and John said, "Have you heard from any friends inside? Texts? Phone calls? Anyone in Mr. Philan's class?"

Melissa shook her head no again, but said, "I heard from a friend who had English class right now, and another in calculus. Both said there's an armed man in each. They're both wearing motorcycle helmets to hide their faces."

"Have you heard from either friend in the last five minutes?"

"My phone's been vibrating with texts, but I haven't read 'em yet."

Melissa dug her cell phone from her back pants pocket and read the text messages.

"Bella in calculus said nothing's happened or changed. The gunman is still and quiet. But I haven't gotten anything from Tyson in English in the last three or so minutes."

John was about to ask why, but his cell phone suddenly went off. He basically ran from Melissa as he took the phone of his pants.

"Garett!?" John asked with alarm.

"They've found a student texting," Garett said with remorse and fear. "He's being brought out front. Shoot the gunman and they'll shoot a whole class."

John's heart shattered and raced all over again. Before he could say another word to Garett, the sound of a big door opening rang through his ears. Out of the main entrance came a young man, clearly a student. But right behind the young man was another man, though this man was dressed in nothing but black clothing. John even noticed a black glove in the man's hand that was holding the student around the neck.

And to John's immediate terror, the gunman held a glock right against his temple.

"Tyson!" Melissa shouted with an onslaught of tears.

"Hold your fire!" John shouted into the radio. "Repeat, hold fire!"

Garett spoke into the phone again, as though reading from a piece of paper, "We have a dozen men in the building. The lives of these kids mean nothing to us. Nothing. If you are in communication with a student inside, I urge you beg them to stop, for nothing good will come of it."

I sinking feeling hit John in the stomach. And that his whole body froze at the sight in front of him. The gunman let Tyson go.

Tyson was frozen for a few moments, fearful and rightfully so.

"Hold fire!" John shouted into the radio again. "Repeat, hold fire!"

Tyson finally moved his foot, to descend the entrance staircase. But the gunman pointed his gun and pulled the trigger. Tyson was shot in the calf, and fell down the stairs. The gunman watched, unmoving, as the young man rolled down to the ground screaming in pain.

That's when John noticed a uniform hiding by the staircase. It was a young-ish man, maybe early to mid thirties. The officer leapt out of hiding right on top of Tyson.

The gunman at the top of the stairs flinched, but otherwise opened fire at the officer protecting the student. He fired five rounds, and was happy to see that two rounds met the officer's back.

Out of the corner of his eye John saw the arms of a few officers raise with guns in their hands, and John shouted, "Hold your fucking fire!"

John could see it on some of the officer's faces that they weren't happy to obey, but did anyway.

"If we even try to shoot the gunman, they'll kill an entire classroom of students," he softly explained into the radio. "They have a dozen men in the school, so we have to do as they wish. For now."

"And the young man lives," Garett said into the phone again still reading a script of sorts, though this time he sounded relieved. "No matter. Our point should be made. And what a brave policeman, don't you think? You have a little less than two hours. Tick tock, Mr. Cooke. Tick tock."

The gunman slowly moved his gloved hand to Garett's neck. Garett watched the hand cautiously, inching his head away, trying to avoid being touched. But the man swiftly grabbed Garett's collar, where a red thread stuck out. The gunman slowly peeled it away from Garett's polo. Garett watched the red thread, the hand inching away. Then suddenly the man dropped the thread and bitch-slapped Garett across the face.

Though the gunman had his rifle slung over his back, he merely watched as the officer and Tyson hobbled down the path to the street, injured. Seeing that the gunman was doing nothing but watching, two officers cautiously approached the two injured men to help.

John went back to Melissa and asked, "Do you know of anyone in school who drives motorcycles or quads?"

"Ummm... I saw Dave Boronowski's bike in the parking lot. He's the only one I know of."

John made a phone call as he walked away. "Evelyn, I need you to look for a David Boronowski at Lincoln High, and get me his parents."

John didn't wait for the woman to say anything. He ended the call, and no sooner had he put his phone in his pants pocket was his name called.

"Cooke!" Chief Brodery called. "What's going on? Any developments?"

"They tried to kill a student right here in front of us not a minute ago! They caught him texting. Luckily an officer in hiding saved the boy, but he himself was shot twice. They confessed to having a dozen men in the school, sir. A young woman who escaped told me that two of her friends in two different classes has a gunman in each."

"Fuckfuckfuckfuck!" Brodery cursed as he threw his hat to the ground. "I've got Patty getting the money. She'll be here in an hour. Anybody get a visual on the gunman who came out?"

"Chief Brodery!" a woman shouted. "I've got images!"

The chief motioned for the officers to let her through the barrier. The woman removed the digital SLR camera from her neck, and handed it to the chief.

After reviewing the images on the screen on the camera, the chief asked John, "They all dressed the same you say?"

"According to Garett, they all wear black long-sleeve tees, black jeans, black shoes, black gloves, and black helmets."

"Inspector Cooke!" a man's voice called. "Inspector Cooke!"

John turned to the voice behind him, seeing an officer with his arm raised. Behind the officer were two middle-aged people; a man and a woman. They must have been parents of a student at Lincoln, if their fearful facial expressions and tears were any indication.

"Inspector Cooke," the man greeted. "My name's Ron Boronowski, David Boronowski's parents you'd asked for?"

"Yes yes!" John said as he led the two a little aways from anyone else. "So I hear your son drives a motorcycle?"

"Yes he does!" Mrs. Boronowski was quick to exclaim as her voice rose in volume and pitch. "Why!? What's happened to my son!?"

"That's what we're trying to figure out, ma'am. Have you heard from David this morning?"

Mr. Boronowski tightened his embrace on his wife as he answered, "He tried to call my cell about an hour ago, but it rang only once and then stopped. I figured it was a mistake, that he'd dialled the wrong number. What is this about, inspector?"

"Mr. and Mrs. Boronowski, there's something major happening inside the school. We've got a massive hostage situation on our hands. Inside Lincoln High, we believe, are a dozen armed men."

"Oh, my god!" Mrs. Boronowski cried as she immediately went into tears. "No!"

"All I ask is that you not call or text David at all," John said cautiously. "I know it's hard, but there was a student who was caught texting and they tried to kill him. And-"

John stopped talking suddenly, his eyes downward to the ground but he was clearly deep in thought. Very deep in thought with a realization.

He turned abruptly, calling, "Chief! Chief!"

John ran up to the man and told him, "They know about us! They fucking know a lot about me and Garett!"

"What?" Brodery demanded with a face of confusion.

"The gunmen, sir. Since taking over the school they haven't spoken, but have communicated with us through Garett. And it's always been by calling my cell. They know I'm his husband, and they know I'm on the force."

Without waiting for the Chief to say anything, John turned away with his phone.

"Evelyn, I need you to get tech to get me the number that called my cell last. No caller ID shows up but I'm sure they have their ways. Text me the number."

"Wh-why are you doing this?" Garett asked the gunmen, who were just standing there in the classroom.

The gunman who stood closer to Garett, the one who kept the cell phone with him, slowly turned his helmeted head to look at Garett. He stared, unmoving, for a few moments, entertained. Then he took incredibly slow steps toward Garett, relishing in the look of fear etching onto Garett's handsome, chiseled face. The rifle slung on the gunman's shoulder, but he adjusted the strap so that it rested fully against his back.

Garett's breathing became even quicker as he watched the gunman threateningly remove a knife from his belt. The tears fell faster when the man touched the point of the knife to Garett's collarbone. The point slowly yet gently traveled up his neck, along his jaw. Garett had to fight every little urge not to move. He tried his very hardest to stop every nerve from rattling, lest his face be sliced open.

The gunman finally removed the blade from Garett's face, but their faces were still inches apart. The gunman tilted his head to the side, giving Garett the impression that he was curious about something.

All in one quick motion, the gunman turned his face away and straightened his stance. He took three steps away, and stood perfectly still. If it wasn't for the slight slouch in the man's shoulders, Garett would have guessed that he had some sort of military training.

"So th-that's why then?" Garett demanded with a shaky voice. "Because it's fun!? What the fuck is wrong with you!?"

The gunman on the other side of the classroom took a slow and dramatic bow, one hand against his stomach and the other outstretched.

"Inspector?" an officer called as he approached. "Officer Bradley Cardin died from the gunshot wounds, sir. The student, Tyson Wall, just got into surgery. The docs are confident he'll be healed with no complications in a few weeks."

John nodded, his heart broken for a lost officer. And even more so as he wondered if the man had a family.

"If the officer has a family have the deputy chief pay them a visit. Feel like taking a breather after that?"

"Sir?" the officer asked.

"Here's ten, go get us a slushy each. Don't tell my husband, though. He'd have my ass. And yours."

When the officer left John, John put his hands on his hips and hung his head. He swallowed hard, thickly, emotional. The onslaught of tears did not come as Chief Brodery called him through the radio.

"What do you think's their plan of escape, Cooke?"

"Sorry, sir?"

"I just did a three-sixty of the building and see no van! No truck! No vehicle of any kind out of place! I doubt they're stupid enough to try high-tailing it out of here in a Lancer. I mean the fact that they don't speak speaks volumes, doesn't it? So how are they getting out of here?"

John gave it some thought for a second, and replied, "Could they have a van coming in?"

"That crossed my mind. I'll get a perimeter set up."

A few minutes later, John's cell phone rang. The person on the other end of the line was sniffling quite loudly.

"J-John, two m-more just brought in a-a-a box. I-i-it's got a timer on it. It's c-counting down, has f-f-fifty-six minutes left. John. Help the kids. Save the kids."

The line went dead right after that. John stood there in complete shock, he was frozen on the spot.

A bomb. A fucking bomb.

John let his body convulse as he silently cried. Then his head flew back as he let out a strangled yet very loud scream.

"Cooke?" Captain Olivia George asked with concern. "What is it? What's happened?"

"A b-bomb," John whispered as he cried. "They have a fucking bomb."

In shock and panic, Cpt. George's gaze turned to the right, on the ground, and she whispered, "Fuck. Holy fuck. Evacuate! Chief, we've got to evacuate the area!"

Seeing that John was silently convulsing in tears, Cpt. George wrapped her arms around his waist with her cheek against his arm.

"You-you-you-you can't do this!" Garett screamed as he cried his big heart out. Th-th-these kids des-deserve a-a-a-a chance! Please! J-j-just let them go!"

The gunman who stood on the other end of the classroom moved suddenly, catching Garett's eye. The man's hands laid on his stomach, and he was animatedly convulsing. He was pretending to laugh.

"Chief!?" Cpt. George called into her radio urgently.

"What is it, George?" Chief Brodery demanded.

"Sir, Cooke just told me that the terrorists have a bomb."

Cpt. Goerge didn't get a response from Chief Brodery, but heard him scream at the top of his lungs somewhere on the other side of the school.

"Has anyone seen or heard from Patty!?" Chief Brodery demanded over the radio.

"Here!" Patricia Bethal said, holding a big silver briefcase.

"About God damned time!" Chief Brodery said angrily. "Get that to Cooke."

On the radio, John heard Chief Brodery say, "Cooke, Patty's comin' to you with the money."

And just a second after that, John received a text message, which read, 'Here's the number that's been calling your cell. +1 (415) 762-#@$&.'

Without a second thought, John tapped the hyper-texted number, and the phone made the call.

"Thank you for calling the Bank of America," the automated voice said on the other end of the line. "If you have a client card, please ent--"

John ended the call right there, his stomach feeling like it was shrinking with a sinking feeling in his heart.

"Cooke!" Patricia Bethal called as she hurried. "Here's the money."

John stared at the woman in front of him, uncomprehending. Then he decided to give it one more try. He redialled the number.

"Thank you for calling the Bank of America. If you have a client card, please enter the number now. If you do no--"

John took his wallet of his pocket, removed his bank card, and punched in the card number.

"Please enter your three digit password now. If you do no-- Thank you. For account balances and a list of recent transactions, press 1. For-- Your chequing account balance is two thousand, four hundred, eighty-eight dollars, and seventy-one cents. Your savings account balance is fifty-seven thousand, nine hundred, eleven dollars, and twenty-eight cents. Your cred--"

Hearing that his accounts sounded accurate, John ended the call. He bit his lower lip in frustration.

"Cooke?" Patricia asked gently.

John's cell rang, again with the No Caller ID.

"A-a little birdie tells me you have our money," Garett's voice said, though he was obviously fighting sobs, and reading from something. "Good, you are sixteen minutes early. I like your work ethic, Insp. Cooke, you get things done. As we speak, every student is being rounded up in the gymnasium."

"Rounded up?" John asked with fear.

"Have another officer place the briefcase on the landing of the main entrance. You have a minute."

As soon as the line went dead, John waved another officer over. The young man who ran up to him looked surprised, yet determined.

"I need you to run this to the top of the main entrance," John said.

Looking fearful, the young officer said, "Sir?"

"If you don't, they'll start shooting students. Now go."

The officer clutched the briefcase in his arms, fear written all over his face, unmoving.

"Go!" John shouted.

The young man jumped, startled, but started running immediately. The man stopped running suddenly when his foot touched the first step of the staircase. He looked back, his eyes wide with fear.

"Cadet," John said slowly into the radio, "the kids' lives depend on you. Up the stairs, now. Now, cadet."

The young officer slowly ascended the stairs, his eyes trained intently on the doors. At the top, he stood the briefcase up, and made sure it stood upright before hurrying down.

"Hold fire," John said quietly yet surely into the radio. "Repeat, hold fire."

The school main entrance was kicked open, and a gunman confidently walked out. He grabbed the suitcase, and curtsied an imaginary skirt before re-entering the school.

John's cell rang again, and he was quick to answer.

"Very good, Insp. Cooke!" Garett's animated yet fearful voice said. "We didn't even have to tell you not to shoot. Good on ya, mate. The bomb is set to go off at ten after two."

"Waitwaitwawitwait!" John cried in desperation. "They have the money! Disarm the bomb!"

Garett was about to say something else, answer John, but the gunman held a finger up, signalling for a pause. He typed something into another phone, and put the screen in front of Garett's face.

'Mr. Philan, you have fifteen seconds to say goodbye to your husband' was written in the Notes application.

"No!" Garett shouted with an immediate onslaught of tears. "No! Y-y-you can't do this! Please!"

A gunshot rang through the air, but John heard it over the phone.

"Garett!?" John cried with a broken heart. "Baby? Garett! You there!? Please an--"

"John?" Garett asked with a high-pitched voice, obviously crying. "I'm so sorry. Okay? I'm so sorry, John. I-I-I love you so much. Thank you for this amazing life. Tell Valery and Hudson that I'll love them every single day for the rest of their lives. Tell--"


"John, it-it's okay," Garett tried so say in a strong voice, but it only broke John's heart further. "It's okay. You- you- you make a good life for our kids, o--"

The next thing John heard was another gunshot, then some banging and crackling which he took to be the cell phone falling to the floor. And then another gunshot.

And then the line went dead.

"Garett!?" John called, his world beginning to stop. "Garett!?"

John's phone beeped, signalling that the other line had hung up.

John stared at his phone for a second, his heart shattered, and suddenly a text message.

'Catch me if you can ;-)'

As John comprehended that, a thousand feet ran, stampeded from the school with the cries and whimpers of frightened students filled the air. Thousands of minors ran from every exit, tears streaking their once innocent faces.

John, his gun at the ready, ran into the school. Inside, he held his gun out, desperately searching for his husband's classroom.

"J-John," Garett said with a weak, bloody smile as one hand pressed his abdomen.

"Garett," John whispered tearfully.

"Y-you're here," Garett whispered as he held his hand out.

John sat by Garett, picking him up and cradling him in his arms.

"Sweep the building!" John cried into the radio.

"John, it's okay," Garett said, but John could see and hear the tears, though he wasn't looking at his husband because he himself shut his eyes to try slowing the tears.

2036, 19 years later...

"I, Hudson Gage Philan," Hudson repeated, "take you, Nicole Annette Samuels, to be my lawfully wedded wife. To have and to hold. For better or for worse. For richer or for poorer. In sickness and in health. To love, and to cherish, til death do us part."

John had to wipe at his eye, a tear threatening to escape, at the sight in front of him. The love that his son so clearly had for Nicole was astounding and beautiful. The shine in the young man's eye, and the brightness of his smile spoke volumes.

Valery nudged her dad's arm.

"Don't start or I will," Valery whispered.

"Nicole," Reverend Peter Markus said, "repeat af--"

"I, Nicole Annette Samuels," Nicole said eagerly, causing the crowd to laugh, "take you, Hudson Gage Philan, to be my lawfully wedded husband. To have and to hold. For better or for worse. For richer or for poorer. In sickness and in health. To love, and to cherish, til death do us part."

The reverend smiled, and said, "By the power vested in my by the state of California, I now proclaim you husband and wife. You may kiss the bride."

Hudson and Nicole continued to hold hands for a moment, gazing into each other's eyes as their smiles slowly grew.

That was it. John couldn't help it anymore. The tears fell from his eyes. His son was well and truly in love.

Two hours later, John found himself sharing a slow dance with Hudson. Hudson had his biological father's tall gene, allowing him to stand at six-foot-three. John stood just under six feet.

"I am so very proud of you, Hud," John said.

Hudson smiled at his dad and asked, "Why?"

"You've grown into a very mature, responsible, caring man. You graduated high school and college early. At twenty-two you've found a woman that you clearly love with every fibre of your being and married her. Nikki is one amazing woman, too. You two are perfect together."

Hudson smiled again and said, "Much like you and--"

"Garett," John finished the sentence with a small smile.

"Mind if I cut in?" Valery said at their side. "I'd like a dance with my baby brother."

"Be my guest," John said. "I need something to drink anyway."

John stood at the bar, watching his two kids dance, and talk, and laugh. Their happy faces meant everything to him.

"May I have this dance?"

John turned to the voice, staring for a moment, and said, "Not right now. In a minute?"

"Okay," Garett said as he laid his head on John's shoulder.


"Garett, just hold on," John whimpered. "Just hold on. Medics will be here in a second. Okay? Just hold on. You stay with me. For our kids. For Hud and V--"

John was pushed aside by an EMT. The female medic immediately cut Garett's shirt open. John grabbed Garett's hand, holding it firmly, fighting the tears as he wanted to be strong for his wounded man. It was only when John looked at Garett's face again that his heart broke. Garett's face was pale, and he was unconscious.

"Garett? Get him back! Help him!"

Two more medics entered the classroom, carrying a stretcher. The two men loaded Garett's unconscious body and carried him out. John never let go of his hand, following them out. In the ambulance, John was told to let go, so he removed his vest and removed all weapons.

Needless to say, it was very long day, evening, and night spent in the hospital. In the end, Garett's heart beat again, though he was unconscious until the next morning.

While John sat by Garett's bed, Chief Brodery entered the room.

"They escaped," the chief said with sorrow.

"What?" John asked quietly, dangerously. "How?"

"They ran out with all the other students. Their clothes and helmets were found in the halls of the school along with the briefcase. We've got a team looking for any sort of DNA. They were either students themselves or young enough to look like students. I've got lists of students who didn't go to school today."

"They're smart, chief," John said. "If they're students, they showed up for roll call, and skipped a class to meet up. We've got to talk to every teacher, to see if they noticed any students missing from their classes."

"I'll get George on that," the chief said. "You just worry about your husband."

Five long hours later, Garett opened his eyes. John had been staring at his face. John smiled, his eyes reddening and tearing a bit.

"Hey," John whispered with a voice thick of emotion. "You're- you're awake."

Garett swallowed, feeling pain all over in doing do. He squeezed John's hand as his way greeting.

"Hello my beautiful," John said quietly as he went in for a kiss.

With a hoarse voice, Garett said, "Hey. I'm alive."

His lip beginning to tremble, John said, "Yeah, you're not leaving us that easily."

"Wh--" Garett had to cough. "Where are the kids?"

"They're at your sister Dana's sleeping."

"Is- (cough) is everyone alright? Tyson Wall?"

"Everyone is fine. Tyson had surgery on the wounded leg and will be A-okay in a few weeks. No casualties."

"Were the terrorists-" Garett stopped when John, in sorrow, closed his eyes and shook his head no.

"Which reminds me... Do you remember if there were any students in any of your classes that were missing?"

"Missing? Were (cough) you think they were students?"

"That's the general consensus. You said the gunmen gathered everyone in the gymnasium, right? Right after you were shot, every student was let go. Everyone ran out of the school. Their clothes and helmets and rifles were found in the school halls. They ran with the students. They could just have been young enough to look like students, though. Why, do you not think they were students?"

"I don't know, John. It's just their stances. They were almost disciplined, statues. Just almost. Very patient, too. What about the bomb?"

"It was a fake. Clever. They were incredibly smart. But enough of this. You're alive, and I cannot thank God enough for that."

Noticing John staring at him with a faint smile, Garett asked him, "What?"

John's smiled grew into a grin as he grabbed Garett around the waist and pulled him close. The two men stood face to face, inches apart, gazing into each other's eyes.

"Nothing," John finally answered. "You. Now, come dance before speech time."

John tried to lead the two to the dance floor, but Garett held firm. The two men did not move.

"C'mon," John mock-whined. "Let's go daaaance!"

Garett laughed as she laid his head on John's shoulder, his forehead nuzzling against John's neck.

"C'mon," John demanded playfully. "Dance. Dance. Garett. Dance."

"Mmmm," Garett complained. "Noooo. Just hold me, dammit!"

"Garett, I won't ask again," John threatened.

"Okay," Garett said solemnly, yet with a smile.

As they walked onto the dance floor, John said, "You're unbelievable."

Garett laughed freely, squeezing John's hand affectionately. They danced, Garett laying his head on John's shoulder and John's head on Garett's.

After about four minutes of slow, romantic dancing, John said, "Thank you, Garett."

"Mm, what for?"

"Being here," John whispered with all sincerity. "For being in my life. For giving me this life. For being one incredible husband to me and dad to our kids. I love you. So much."

Garett removed his head from John's shoulder in favor of looking him in the eye. Their eyes connected for a moment or two, love displayed unapologetically. And Garett didn't need to say the words back. John just knew in his heart, by the way Garett looked at him, that he loved him just as much.

Garett tip-toed slightly, bringing his lips to John's. The two shared a simple peck, but smiled at each other as they continued slow dancing.

"Do you-" John started saying, but stopped as he looked off.

"What?" Garett asked quietly, but John shook his head. "What is it?"

"Nothing," John replied softly. "Please forget I said anything."

"No, John. What were you saying? You're worrying me."

John sighed, looking up with only his eyes, and answered, "I was going to ask whether you ever thought about that day... at Lincoln..."

"You mean the terrorism? No, not really. I mean the last time I thought about that was, like, ten years ago or something. I used to wonder who they were, how they escaped, what that two million was used for... I especially wondered 'why me?' But now I don't think about it at all. I'm thankful to be here. I'm thankful I got to see our kids grow into adults. When I read that note, that I was to say goodbye to you, you can't imagine the pain I felt that I was going to die. That my kids would grow up without me. That my husband was would have to raise them without any help from me. But... I'm here. We raised two wonderful kids. I love you even more than I did twenty years ago."

"Okay," John whispered before he bent his neck to give Garett another kiss.

"It sounds like you think about that..."

John gently pulled on Garett's head to rest on his shoulder as the two continued to dance.

"Only every other day," John finally answered.

Garett tightened his embrace around John's middle and kissed the man's neck to comfort him.

"Grandpa!" a little girl's voice cried excitedly. "Grandpa! Dance with me!"

Garett and John separated, both grinning. Garett grabbed the little girl and kissed her cheek.

"My pleasure, Ms. Jansen," Garett said to his granddaughter. "Where is your mother?"

"Valery's dancing with Bradford," Carla answered as her grandfather started swaying gently.

"Valery and Bradford, huh?" Garett asked with a chuckle. "What have your parents done to have you refer to them by their first names?"

"Oh nothing, I just want people to see me as more of a grown-up."

"But you're seven!" Garett said. "You're already so grown up!"

Carla rolled her eyes and replied, "Oh whatever, Garett."

Garett laughed whole-heartedly at his granddaughter, and kissed her cheek again.

"Let's see," Garett said into the microphone. "What can I say about my Hudson Gage? Oh! How about the time he met Nikki?
"So it was his very first day of high school, he was thirteen then, and I dropped him off at the main entrance so I could park in my spot. He would not get out of the car because he was so enraptured with something. I was trying to figure out what he was staring at, why he wasn't answering me.
"'Oh, my god,' he says, 'she's gonna have my kids some day.'"

The entire room, filled with one hundred and twenty people, erupted into laughter. Garett saw Hudson laugh a bit, and his new wife Nikki slapped his arm with a look of humour and shock.

"I'm just kidding," Garett said, "I'm just kidding, Hud didn't really say that. He just commented on her beauty. I told him to talk to her sometime.
It wasn't until a month into the semester that Nikki noticed him. But that was because they were made partners for an English assignment. They became friends because of that.
Fast forward two years later, Hud has a growth spurt, his facial hair suddenly comes in, and he decides contacts are his thing. Nikki tries setting him up, and Hud says no to them all. One night, after watching some film in a theatre, he just goes in for a kiss. Six years later, before my eyes, are two young adults completely in love and newly-weds.
"Nikki, Hud, I love you both. Congratulations on your nuptials."

The End.

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