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Fiction Friday: Hang On – Searching

I have another new scene from Hang On for you this morning. Next month I’ll be doing Story a Day again, so my Fiction Friday will be from one of those prompts.

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He was gone.
I still couldn’t believe it. I’d gone up the trail, looking for some sign Ian had been through there. But, there was nothing. No bag left behind, no rope anchoring him in. Absolutely nothing. I saw Deputy Henry coming back down the trail, but he claimed not to have seen anyone. He’d been called out about a call about some suspicious behavior but there’d been no one around.
If there’d been no one around, I didn’t understand who would have called that in. It’s not like there were any residences up this way. But, that didn’t matter. Ian was out there somewhere. What if he’d fallen and gotten hurt. I knew better than anyone how easy that could happen.
It had almost happened to me, but Ian had been there to catch me. There was no one to catch him.
It had taken some arguing this morning for the sheriff to even send anyone out here to look into things. In fact, the arguing had started with deputy Henry just for me to get to speak to the sheriff. Sheriff Miller had been a little easier to convince. He’d known both Ian and me since we were little boys. And he’d obviously seen how distraught I was.
I hadn’t been able to sleep at all through the night.
The sheriff hadn’t understood why his deputy had given me a hard time about reporting him missing. And he’d sent two other deputies up to look around on the trail. I’d wanted to go with them. But, Sheriff Miller had put a restraining hand on my shoulder and kept me right there. He’d asked me questions about the day before, and I gave him whatever answers I could. But, I didn’t know anything. Ian hadn’t been upset, we hadn’t argued, nothing had been out of the ordinary when I left for work that morning.
And I’d still been sitting there at his desk when one of the deputies radioed in to say they’d found signs someone had been up there and might have fallen.
I was pretty sure my heart had stopped beating right then. I wasn’t sure it had picked up again even as the sheriff put together a search team and we headed up the trail. I saw what had the deputies concerned, the scuff marks near the edge of the trail, what led to a sharp drop off.
“Ian would not have started a climb from there,” I said. “He wouldn’t have even been climbing by himself. None of this makes sense.”
Deputy Henry sent me a baleful look. “I thought you guys were all into that free climbing shit.”
“We don’t climb by ourselves. Never. What don’t any of you understand about this? If Ian went over the side, someone fucking pushed him.”
I didn’t realize I was yelling until the sheriff put his hands on my shoulders and said, “Calm down, son.” I wasn’t his son, but he’d always called me that, even if I didn’t need a second father in my life. “We’ll figure out what happened, but you need to calm down, or I’ll send you home with Deputy Holtz.”
I’d gone to school with Larinda Holtz, but I didn’t want to go home with her. I wanted to go home with Ian. “I was going to ask him,” I choked out. “Last night. I’d figured out the perfect way to propose to him. But, he wasn’t there.”
Then, I was sobbing. I knew the deputies and other searchers were looking at me, but I couldn’t hold it in any longer. Ian was gone, and right now, I wasn’t sure I’d ever see him again.
The sheriff patted my back, but even in this state, I could tell he wanted to be anywhere else. I tried to get myself under control, but when one of the deputies called, “We’ve got blood,” I started shaking so hard, I was sure I’d just fall over.
“Get him out of here,” the sheriff said, pushing me off on Deputy Holtz.
I didn’t have much strength to fight as she started to lead me back down the trail. Still, I tried. “I’m not going to lose it, Larry. Please. I need to be here.”
“Sorry,” she said, only keeping a tighter grip on my arm. “Sheriff said to get you away from here, so that’s what I’m doing. I am sorry, Aidan. I always liked Ian, too.”
They were already talking like he was dead. But, he couldn’t be. I didn’t know how I could keep on living if he was dead. So, that meant somehow he still had to be alive. I had to believe that.
And maybe if I believed hard enough it would be true.

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Fiction Friday: Hang On – Aidan Comes Homes

I’m still working on editing Hang On, so this week I’m sharing another new scene that I’ve added to the story. This part takes place about a year after the beginning of the scene(which I’m turning into a prologue for the real story). This is in Aidan’s POV.

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I pulled the truck into the driveway, surprised not to see Ian’s car there waiting. He’d planned to stay home today, work on his new picture book idea. His first one was going to be released in just a couple months. He didn’t know it, but I’d already pre-ordered enough to give to everyone we knew.
Maybe his mom had called and needed something. Of course, he would drop anything to go help her or his father. That was the kind of guy Ian was. He’d drop anything for my parents or siblings, too. It was only one of the many reasons I loved that man.
I slung my tool belt over my shoulder and took it into the house with me. I might mostly just work up the plans these days, but I wasn’t above getting my hands dirty with the rest of the crew as well. In fact, I enjoyed doing it.
But, right now about all I wanted to enjoy was a shower and a beer. And maybe Ian’s hands all over me. Yes, I would definitely enjoy that as well. If only I knew where the hell he was.
I tried the door only to find it locked. Of course, it was if he wasn’t here. I’d hoped maybe he’d just loaned his car out or maybe he’d taken it to the garage. He kept meaning to do that. But, no, he must actually not be here.
Hopefully he’d be back soon. I may have just seen him this morning, but that didn’t mean I didn’t miss him. And anyway, I had something important to ask him. I couldn’t do that during one of our short phone conversations during the day.
I’d hoped to be home sooner, but I knew we weren’t going to have many more nice days before the weather turned to finish this job, so we’d used every moment of light we could get from the day.
I dropped the belt on the table, even knowing Ian would get after me about that when he got home. Smiling to myself a little, I headed through the kitchen. That might have been exactly why I’d done it. I don’t know why, but him lecturing me seemed to flip all my switches. I was odd, I knew that.
Maybe he’d get home while I was in the shower and come in to join me just for that lecture. Lost a bit in that fantasy, I almost didn’t notice the slip of paper sitting on the counter. Ian must have left a note letting me know he wouldn’t be here. I’d already figured that out, so I just kept walking to the bathroom, stripping as I went.
I was sure Ian would get the hint when he got back.
But, he never joined me in the shower. I stepped out of it and grabbed the towel off the rack, drying off before wrapping it around my waist. Disappointment weighed on me as I padded out of the bathroom and down the hall to our bedroom. The house was still silent. Where was Ian?
Disappointment started to shift toward worry. Even if Ian had gone to help his parents with something, he should have been back by now. Once I was dressed, I’d give him a call and see where the hell he was. I dragged on a pair of sweats and a t-shirt then headed back toward the kitchen, checking my phone as I walked. No voice mails or texts from Ian either. I almost felt an itch along my shoulder blades. I ignored it. I didn’t get premonitions. Everything was fine.
I was removing the top from the bottle of beer when I saw the slip of paper on the counter again. I strode over and snapped it up. Ian would usually just text me, not leave an actual note. Why did he this time? I glanced down at the note as I took the first sip of beer. Then spit it back out as the words sank in.
Went climbing. See you tonight. Love you.
That was it. Not even signing his name. I glanced out the window. Sure it had been a decent day, but it had been cooling off with a wind picking up as evening came on. And it was getting dark earlier. Why would Ian have gone climbing on his own.
It didn’t make any sense.
I set the beer bottle down and grabbed my shoes. We didn’t climb alone. Ian knew that. If he had gone out there, I’d make sure he stayed safe.

Fiction Friday: Hang On

Last week, I shared an added scene to my short story, Mistaken Meeting, as I’m fleshing it out to include in an anthology of my own short stories. This week, I’m working on another of those short stories, Hang On. This is the second scene in it now, one I just added. The original story was only from Aidan’s POV. Now, I’m adding in Ian’s as well.

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I didn’t have a clue what was wrong with me. I was never this antsy in Aidan’s presence.
Actually all of that was a lie. A huge, freaking, not an ounce of truth in it lie. I’d gotten really good at telling those, to myself and everyone else. No, I’m not in love with my best friend. No, I don’t want to jump him every time I see him. No, I’m not jealous when he has another partner, no matter their gender.
All lies. Every single one of them.
But, I couldn’t tell him that. I couldn’t tell him anything that would put distance between us. Of course I seemed to be doing that with no words at all. And he just dug further under my skin.
I hadn’t lied about that. He was under my skin. I couldn’t even say how long he’d been there. It was like one day we were just best platonic friends, and the next he’d put every piece of my heart in one of the pockets of his hiking pack.
That was stupid. I knew it. He’d know it if I ever voiced that.
Which is why I just kept it to myself. There was no need to show him how far my oddities could go. Not that it was odd for someone to fall for him. He was perfect.
Okay, that was a lie, too. Aidan had as many flaws as anyone else. Less than me maybe, but that didn’t make them non-existent. I tapped my fingers against the side of the door as I tried to list them out in my head.
1. He didn’t always get my jokes. Of course, he usually laughed anyway.
2. He didn’t have much of a sense of style. But, that meant I got to go shopping with him.
3.
This wasn’t working. I found a counter for every flaw I could list. I had to come up with some other way to remind myself that Aidan and I could never work as a couple. Not and remain the friends we’d always been.
Hell, he’d probably laugh in my face if I ever mentioned us trying for more. Not to be cruel. That had never been one of Aidan’s faults. I was more likely to be cruel than Aidan, and I tried not to be that. But, he would think I was only joking, since that was the way I handled life most of the time.
“You know,” I said, determined to get this day back on the right track, “if those wood nymphs do have you on a hit list, hiking through the woods might not be our best course of action.”
I flicked my gaze to the side and saw him shaking his head. But, his lips were wide with a smile. “Goofball,” I was pretty sure I heard him mutter.
I settled back in the passenger seat and crossed my ankle over my knee. It might take some effort, but I’d make sure things didn’t change between us. I couldn’t lose him, no matter what else it cost me.

Fiction Friday: “Too Cold”

It was too cold to be running for my life. I never should have come up here. Why had I paid any attention to that postcard. It had creeped me out the first time I read it. I should have just ripped it up and tossed it in the trash.

Or shown it to Aidan. Maybe he would have known what to do about it. I’d tried to protect him, and look where it had gotten me.

Huddled in this little cave, if you could even call it that, listening to that man crash around up above me. A shiver  shook me, and I wrapped my arms tighter around my knees, trying to hold onto any heat I could.

I didn’t even know where I would go if I tried to run. I knew this area really well, Aidan and I were always hiking the various trails. But, I’d never seen this cave before. Not until I’d fallen over that edge.

Maybe he thought I was dead. I just had to wait for him to leave. Then, I could climb back up and go home to Aidan. Right now, that was really all I wanted.

“You’d better be dead,” came the shout from above me. “He needs to suffer for what he’s done.”

My teeth wouldn’t stop chattering. Now I wasn’t sure if it was from the cold or the dread that swept over me. I still didn’t understand his beef with Aidan, a man who had never hurt anyone. I hadn’t been able to convince that man of that before he gave me that final shove.

“If I see you anywhere near him again, I’ll kill the both of you.” The snapping of branches then, “You have to be dead.”

I shook so hard I thought the ground was breaking apart under me. I couldn’t go home. I might not know where I could run, but I would never put Aidan in that kind of danger. I had to figure something out.

I just wished I could go home.

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I’ve written a few pieces about Ian(the 1st person narrator here) and Aidan. Planning on gathering them all together and include them in a collection of my short stories. This may be part of it.

Story a Day: Day 3 – Dazzling Sunset

*Yes, I wrote Day 3 on the 4th of September because I’m skipping Sundays this month.

Today I used the “the sunsets were dazzling…” prompt combined with a sensory writing prompt from a patreon account I follow. This month’s was to use thunder, flannel, and $2 bills somehow. For this one, I used characters who showed up in a couple of my May Story a Day pieces.

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I reached the ledge and pulled myself up over it, settling myself against the rock while Aidan finished the climb. It had taken us a while before we’d been able to come back here. First I’d almost lost him to a slippery grip. Then, he’d thought he’d lost me to a madman. Is it any wonder climbing had lost its appeal for a while there?
Thunder rumbled in the distance, and I cast a quick glance toward the sky. The sunsets were dazzling from up here, but with those clouds rolling in, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.
A hand reached up over the ledge, and I grasped it, helping Aidan pull himself the rest of the way up. He dropped back against the rock with me, and we watched the sky streak with orange and pink and even some dark purple.
The thunder boomed again, and it sounded closer this time. “We’d better get back to camp,” he said.
I wouldn’t mind staying here and watch the storm roll through, but I knew he was right. If we didn’t move, we’d be soaked. And sleeping in a tent while already drenched was not quite my idea of fun. Of course, we could always dry each other off and warm up together. And that was my idea of fun.
We packed the equipment back into our bags, and started off down the trail. Neither of us spoke, but we held hands and kept pace with each other. Once we were back in the tent, warm and dry, there would be plenty of time to talk. And anything else.
Rain drops hit us as we walked into the campsite. They fell harder, and we raced to the tent. Aidan unzipped the flap, and we both stepped inside. He zipped it back up and turned to me. A moment later, the skies completely opened up. He was shivering, so I dropped in front of my pack we’d left behind and pulled out a flannel shirt. It was a little long in the sleeve but it would work to get him warm.
“You don’t think I packed my own warm stuff?” he asked me.
I grinned at him. “You are the optimistic thinker of us. I prefer to be prepared.”
He laughed and wrapped the shirt around him, the sleeves hanging past his hands. I dug another shirt out for myself. And watched a $2 bill fall out of the pack. I could have sworn I’d left that at home. I’d thought it was lucky until the last time I brought it on a hike.
And Aidan had almost fallen off the cliff face we’d just climbed.
“It doesn’t have good or bad luck,” he said now. “We make our own luck, Ian.”
After a moment, I nodded. Then, I stepped into his arms. I wouldn’t need the sweatshirt I’d pulled out. He kept me plenty warm, especially when we climbed into the sleeping bad together.

Story a Day: Day 15 – “Not so Dead”

I wanted to go to him. I’d slipped my message into the mailbox after he’d left to go to my funeral. It was cruel timing, even I knew that. But, I couldn’t show myself. Not yet. For the moment, it was better that everyone thought I was dead. Especially the man who thought he’d killed me.

But, Aidan was hurting so bad right now. I never wanted him to hurt. And it was partially my fault he was. Maybe I should have come forward sooner. But, after I’d fallen, I actually had thought I was going to die. And if I’d come back then, that asshole would have finished me off. And maybe Aidan as well. I just hoped he’d understand I’d  been protecting him.

But, right now, he was sitting on our porch swing crying. I’d never heard such a broken sound before. It was killing me not to go to him right now. But, I knew I couldn’t. I had to wait and just hope he’d follow the instructions on the postcard. If he did, Tuesday at 8 I could finally be with him again. I retreated back into the trees and made my way back to the cave where I’d dragged myself when I’d woken up on the ledge I’d landed on after getting pushed off the cliff.

***

I hung in the shadows of some trees that Tuesday night. I didn’t even know if Aidan would come up here tonight. Maybe he had thought the card really was a cruel joke. I should have said more. But, I was afraid to risk putting too much into writing.

Then, I heard the rustle of footsteps through fallen leaves. I stayed right where I was. It might not be Aidan. It was hard to see clearly as the sky darkened. And I hadn’t wanted to risk a light. I saw the beam of his flashlight at he finally came to our spot. A few more moments passed before I finally heard his voice.

“Ian.” I hated the way his voice cracked on my name. Then, he continued, “I’ll have you know, if you are here, I’m going to kill you for what you’ve put me through.”

I couldn’t stop the chuckle that rose. Aidan’s head whipped toward me, so I stepped out of the trees and pushed back the hood of my sweatshirt. “I’m really getting tired of people threatening me with that.”

The flashlight dropped from his hand, and I dashed forward to catch him as his knees looked like they’d give out. For a moment, everything felt right again with my arms around him. Then, he said, “You’re dead.” His gaze stayed on my face, but I could see the fear and confusion in his face, and it ripped through me. “We buried you today.”

“I’m sorry,” I told him. And I was. I hated that he’d been grieving me for so long, but there wasn’t anything I could do to change that. “I had to. Or he would have come after me again. But, I couldn’t hide from you anymore. It was killing me. But, if he finds out I’m still alive, that’s just what he will do.”

“Who?” he demanded, pulling back but still staring at me.

This was going to be the hard part. I wasn’t sure he’d believe it. Not when he’d thought that asshole was a friend. Or at least not an enemy. I didn’t know how he’d react to the truth. And all I wanted to do was kiss him. But, I had to do this first.

“Come on,” I said, stepping back from the clearing. It would be better for us to head for the cave I’d been staying in before we started this. “And I’ll tell you a story.”

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Today’s Story a Day prompt was to take a story you’ve written before and write it again from a different point of view. So, I took my story from Day 1, “The Dead Friend“, and rewrote it from Ian’s POV instead of Aidan’s.

Story a Day: Day 5 – “Friendly Warning”

I took my insulated cup of coffee and headed down the hallway to my office. That was probably being generous. It was meant to be a nursery, right off the master bedroom. But, that wasn’t ever going to happen. Or at least not for a long time.

When I’d dropped him at the airport the day before, Ian had told me not to work too hard while he was gone. I’d wanted to go with him, but I had this project to finish for a client. And after a month of thinking he was dead, his parents deserved to spend some time with him. Just him. Even with those arguments, he’d still tried to convince me to go along.

Maybe next time, I’d go with him. But, for now, I had work to do.

I flipped on the light and headed toward my desk. But, I froze when I saw the black letters scrawled across my whiteboard on the other side of the desk. What the hell?

I looked harder at it even as I thought maybe I should have mainlined the coffee. I hadn’t slept well the night before. Ever since almost losing Ian, I had trouble sleeping when he wasn’t there. But, no, I didn’t think I was imagining this.

Whatever happens, don’t die. See you Monday.

What the hell? I shook my head, read the words again and let out an exasperated laugh. Did he actually think that was funny? He was the one who had almost died. Now, he was joking about it.

No, I realized after a moment. That wasn’t his writing. And I’d been in here just before we’d left for the airport. The board had been blank then. Hadn’t it?

I was almost sure of it. And now a shiver skittered down my spine. Who could have gotten in here to leave this for me? The deputy was still locked up, and I hadn’t thought the note was threatening until I thought of him.

I snapped a quick picture of the message and attached it to a message to Ian. Did you do this?

It only took a few minutes for his response to come back. No. Get out of there.

Shit. That’s what I was afraid of. But, I didn’t know who– I turned at the cackling sound from the doorway and saw my little brother, Connor, standing there, laughing his head off. “What are you doing?” I demanded.

“Your face,” he said, still laughing. “It’s priceless.”

“Did you do this?”

“It was a joke,” he said, “I thought you’d laugh. You laugh when Ian does stuff like that.”

Because Ian didn’t have a cruel bone in his body. “It’s way too soon, Connor. It hasn’t even been two weeks since I found out Ian wasn’t actually dead.” I grabbed the eraser for the board and swiped it over the words. “Get out. Go home.”

“I’m sorry, Aid,” he said as he turned from the doorway. “I didn’t mean to upset you.”

That didn’t make it hurt any less. I waited until I heard the front door slam then dialed Ian’s number. “Are you safe?” he asked as soon as he answered.

“It was Connor, the little shit,” I told him. “I didn’t realize he stayed here last night.”

Ian let out a quick laugh. “Sometimes I wanted at least one sibling. Then, I met your crazy brothers and sisters. Maybe being an only child really was better.”

I laughed and sank into my desk chair, letting it spin toward the window. “I miss you. It hasn’t even been a day.”

“I know,” he said softly, as if he was thinking the exact same thing. “But you should have seen Mom and Dad. The relief on their face when they saw me. Like they hadn’t believed I was actually still alive until they saw it with their own eyes.”

I knew that feeling. I wouldn’t have believed it either, if I hadn’t seen him myself.

“My plane gets in Monday morning,” he said. “Will you be there to pick me up?”

“I wouldn’t be anywhere else,” I told him. “I can’t wait until you’re back.”

“The feeling’s mutual,” he said. “Don’t let those wood nymphs in the basement get you before that.”

I laughed at the joke he’d made up when this had all started for us. Was it any surprise I’d fallen so hard for him?

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Ian and Aidan just don’t want to leave me alone. And I’m perfectly okay with that. 🙂 I still have to finish the original short story that started this(“Hang On”), which is where the joke about wood nymphs started. That’s one of my side projects(I’m up to 11 now) that I add at least 100 words a week to. Eventually it’ll get done.

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