Warning: Hairy chests. If that’s not your thing…then iono 😉
“She’s always hated me, you know. Just because her husband loved me once.”
Riley sighed. He’d come home to pick up the few things he’d brought with him and had been ambushed by his mother. “Who hates you mom?”
He knew exactly whom she was talking about. It was the same story he’d heard since high school. But he also knew that if he didn’t ask, she would just get angry and accuse him of not caring.
Layla Sawyer stared at her son like he was stupid. “Rae Rose Torres, of course. Tell me Riley, how is he doing?”
“He’s still in a coma, mom. They have him stabilized but until they know what he was poisoned with, there’s nothing they can do. We’re hoping he comes out of it on his own but it’s not very likely.”
“My poor CJ. If he had stayed with me…”
Riley checked his watch. “Mom, I have to get going. I promised Tony I’d be right back.”
His mother’s eyes narrowed. “What is it with you and that boy? Every time he calls, you jump. I’d hoped you grow out of that, instead you go and work for him. That’s not smart Riley, you will just get your heart hurt again. Remember a few years ago when you came home? Miserable, you were just miserable!”
Riley would rather not remember that. She was right though, he had been miserable. He’d just lost the one person who’d meant the world to him. But there might be a chance to be with him now, if only she would let him go! “Mom, Tony and I…we’re in a good place now. I think we might even have a chance at it being more.”
Just saying the words, expressing that tender hope aloud made heat bloom in his chest. They might have a chance! He would shout it if he could. First things first though. They had to help Connor. Then, maybe, he would take Tony away somewhere and just be with him.
“Good luck with that, his mother would never allow it. She’s a very selfish woman and holds on to her men like an old miser to his coin,” Layla said bitterly.
Riley smiled, remembering the kiss Tony’s mother had walked in on and her reaction. “Oh, I don’t know mom. She saw us kissing and she didn’t seem to mind.”
“You kissed him? Riley, listen to what you’re saying.” His mother’s eyes grew wide in shock; and she came up to him and took his face in her hands, a worried expression on her face. “You can’t ever be with that boy. You have to think about your future. What about children, Riley; what about continuing the line?”
He frowned. “Mom, you have two other sons. I’m sure they’re just as capable as I am of giving you grandsons.”
He should have seen this coming. He’d never “come out” to his parents but he’d never hid what he was from them either. He’d never seen a reason to, he wasn’t gay. But, standing in front of his mother and arguing about kissing Tony, he realized how stupid that sounded. She knew how he felt about Tony, had admitted she understood why he’d been so upset when Tony had started dating Franco. So why was she acting like this now?
“What about that nice girl you’re dating? How will she feel when she finds out you were kissing Tony?”
“Samantha? We broke up over a year ago. Mom, I really don’t have time for this, I have to go.” He needed to get back to Tony.
His mother walked in front of the door and crossed her arms. “No. I won’t allow it. You’re confused, Connor is ill and emotions are running high, I get it. I’ll make you some dinner and we can sit and talk about it. You’ll see that I’m right, that family is the most important thing. You should always put that first. You’re at a very important crossroads in your life, Riley. Now is the time to make the right decision. Don’t waste your time on something with no possible future, honey.”
She was not going to let this go. She was right; he was very emotional right now. But this wasn’t a snap decision. He’d spent a long time wondering if what he and Tony had was the right thing for him. Frustrated at the reminder that even now, he still had a lot of choices to make; eager to leave and talk to his friend, he snapped, “Mom I love you, so please don’t make me choose, because if you do and he will have me, I will choose Tony.”
She gasped, shocked at his blunt answer. Tears welled in her eyes. “After everything I’ve sacrificed for you children! I’ve always put family first, in everything I do.” With each word her voice grew higher, became shriller until she was practically screaming at him. “Without us you have no pack, you are Kazdait, do you hear me?!”
Riley felt his heart break a little. She was threatening to disown him. He would never be allowed back into his home, could never see his brothers or her again. “Mom…”
“No, you choose, Riley Sawyer and you choose well. You cannot have both. Either a family or that London boy.” She turned and walked away from him.
Riley stood in the entryway of his home and hesitated. Could he give up everything he’d ever known for something that wasn’t even a sure thing; for a chance to – maybe – be with Tony? In all of his rambling, Tony had never said he wanted something long-term. His actual words had been, “the occasional sexual dalliance.”
Riley stood…and stood.
He wasn’t going to come back.
Anthony fiddled with one of the test tubes on the table. It had been hours since Riley left to get his stuff. He was supposed to have come right back.
Sighing, Tony went back to testing the latest blood sample from his father. Brian and the doctors at Memorial were monitoring his dad, hoping for improvement. They’d sent him the blood work because his house was better equipped than the hospital to run the tests they needed.
He’s not coming.
Tony gave up all pretense of work and just sat, staring at the vials. He’d known it was too good to be true. Even though Riley had seemed interested, why would he want Tony? He could offer Riley nothing. He was damaged goods full to the brim with baggage. Franco had made sure of that. He sucked on his bottom lip, wondering what he would do now. He’d wanted so badly to hope…
Tony felt a light touch on his arm. “Hey babe, why do you look so sad? Did something happen?”
Turning around to find Riley standing there, he flung his arms around his friend. “You came back!” God he was such a girl.
Riley laughed and held him tight. “Of course I came back, I told you I would.” He pulled away slightly and searched Tony’s eyes. “Is everything okay?”
Feeling ridiculous for the display of emotion, Tony blushed and shook his head. “Nothing’s wrong. You just took so long, I thought – well it doesn’t matter what I thought.”
Riley brushed a strand of hair away from Tony’s eyes, “It always matters. I always want to know what you’re thinking.”
He leaned in and kissed Tony lightly on the lips. His hand was now against Tony’s cheek and the warmth from it was seeping into Tony’s body. It felt like the tension and stress of the past day was just melting away.
“Riley?” Tony asked when they pulled apart.
“Have you ever…” He could feel another blush coming. He was a grown man, why couldn’t he ask a simple –
Riley’s eyes seemed to light up and his smile grew wider. “Have I ever what, babe?”
Tony shrugged and went for it. “Have you ever been with a man? You don’t seem too…worried.”
Tony hadn’t known that Riley was gay. And they were supposed to be friends. He tried to think back to high school, was there anything about Riley then that were clues, any signs that he’d missed? He remembered his 21st birthday. Riley had asked him about being gay. Maybe this would be all new to him. Did Riley even really like him? God, was he just pretending? No. Men didn’t pretend to like other men. Riley was clearly gay.
Riley stopped smiling, suddenly very serious. “Should I be worried? Will you hurt me, Tony?”
Tony shook his head violently. “No. Never. I – I would never…”
Riley smiled again. “Shh, I know baby, I know.”
He was so tired but he almost had it. He would probably focus better if he wasn’t constantly looking up to see where Riley was. True to his word, Riley had stayed with him all day, leaving only for bathroom and food breaks.
Tony didn’t know what was wrong with him. He just had this irrational fear that he’d almost lost Riley. That by some sheer miracle, he’d just managed to hold on to his friend.
When he looked up next, he found Riley standing above him. “What? Time for food again?”
Riley smiled softly, “It’s two in the morning babe. Time for bed.”
Two? But Tony felt like he’d just started working. He told Riley so. “Maybe it’s because you keep dozing off. Have been for the last hour. It was cute at first, but I’m tired now too, Tony. You can continue in the morning, but for now, sleep.”
Riley helped Tony store his samples, asking him questions about the progress he’d made that day. Tony felt a moment of guilt. Riley was a builder and had no way of actually helping Tony with any of this. Tony was barely qualified! Yet he’d demanded that Riley stay with him.
They walked upstairs to his room and Tony fell on his bed. Exhaustion started to creep in but he jerked awake when he felt Riley moving towards the door. “No. Stay.”
Riley paused. “Not a good idea, Tony.”
“No, s’kay. Stay, Riley.” He patted the bed underneath him and closed his eyes. His thoughts turned to the compounds he was trying combine. He was missing something but he couldn’t… “Riley…”
Tony tried to open his eyes and sit up, but all he managed to do was lift his head slightly, eyes narrowed to slits, he was so tired. Riley was sitting on the far side of the room, as far away from Tony as he could get. Tony frowned. “I need…”
“What do you need, Tony?” Riley asked, his voice low.
“’hesive…” Tony whispered. He curled onto his side and closed his eyes, unable to stay awake anymore.
“Why do you keep disappearing?” Tony watched as Riley walked into the dining room, looking tousled and tired. He’d woken up that morning to learn that Riley had once again disappeared. Tony had found him in the guest room, curled up and fast asleep.
He was a little upset that Riley had chosen to sleep in another room and not with him. If I hadn’t been so tired…
He would have woken Riley up but he’d remembered the epiphany he’d made last night. The antidote he’d been working on required a bonding enzyme and he wanted to get started on that right away. Only, he couldn’t without Riley. So here he was, sitting at the table, waiting.
“I went to sleep. I know you don’t need much of it, but the rest of the world does.” Riley pushed back a strand of hair from Tony’s face and sat down next to him. There was a plate of food in front of Tony, who was clearly not eating. “Eat babe.”
Riley grabbed a piece of waffle off the plate and popped it into his mouth.
“I’m not hungry,” Tony said. “I need to get back to the lab. I think I figured out what I was doing wrong.”
Riley stopped with the second piece of bread halfway to his mouth. “Really? Then why are you just sitting here?” He stood up and headed for the stairs, and Tony sighed, happy that they were finally getting to work.
“Riley,” he said as they walked down to the lab. “Why did you sleep in the guest room last night?”
Riley stopped and Tony almost bumped into him. Turning around, he said, “Because this is your parents’ home and because if I had stayed last night, we wouldn’t have slept, Tony.”
Tony blinked. Well… “Will you stay tonight?”
He watched as Riley frowned before smoothing out his expression. His heart went into overdrive, dreading the words that Riley was about to say to turn him down, but gently of course. He’d slept on it and realized he didn’t want that kind of relationship…
“Okay.” Riley turned around and walked into the lab.
Tony couldn’t quite put his finger on it, but something was wrong. Riley was different today. Maybe he was just over-thinking things because this was Riley and they were now…together? Were they together, did those few quick kisses mean the same to Riley as they did to him?
Riley popped his head out the doorway and quirked an eyebrow. “You coming? I thought you had a theory about your dad’s blood samples?”
Shaking his head to clear it of the unhappy thoughts, Tony walked into the lab too. He would talk to Riley about it later, but now he had to focus on his dad.
Twelve hours later, Tony rubbed his eyes and looked over at Riley. “Riley,” he said softly.
“Yes, Tony?” Riley looked worn down. Tony had noticed throughout the day that he didn’t seem to be focused. It was understandable, it’s not like he had much to focus on, but he looked sad too.
“Is everything okay?”
“Yeah, I’m good. Tired and hungry, but I’m good. Why?” Riley looked at him with a small smile.
Tony shook his head. “Nothing.” If Riley didn’t want to talk about whatever was bothering him, fine. He would respect his privacy.
Riley walked over to him and looked at what he was doing. “Did it work?” He reached over and wrapped his arm around Tony.
“I think so. The cells aren’t rejecting it, so that’s a good sign. We won’t know until we give it to him.”
“Riley, I don’t know about this…” They were in his room, lying on the bed, kissing. After working on the antidote all day, Riley had forced Tony to stop and get some rest. All they could do now was wait and see if it worked. Dr. Gates had stopped by to pick up the vial of liquid that might stabilize Connor over an hour ago. When Riley had asked Tony to come to bed, it was the best thing he’d heard all day, but now that he’d finally convinced Riley to stay with him, he was feeling nervous.
“Do you want to stop?”
Tony worried his lower lip, no he didn’t. He wanted this but, “Can we go slow please?”
“I like slow. Slow is good.” Riley smiled and began to undress him. He took his time and Tony was grateful, it allowed him to get his heart rate under control.
By the time they were both in their underwear, he was feeling much calmer, which was ironic since he was in bed with Riley. His best friend. A burst of laughter escaped his mouth and Riley raised an eyebrow in amusement. “What?”
Tony blushed, “Sorry. Nerves.”
Riley cocked his head to the side and said, “On your stomach babe.”
Tony’s heart rate climbed through the roof. “What?”
Riley smirked. “Calm down Tony. I just want to see your tattoos.”
“Oh.” Oh. “Okay.”
He turned and waited. When the first light touch of Riley’s hand made contact with his skin, he shivered. Who knew a touch could be so electric?
“Do you want to tell me about these? I didn’t know you had tattoos.”
Tony closed his eyes, enjoying the gentle massage Riley was giving him. His voice came out low, “It’s stupid.”
Riley hummed but said nothing else.
“I got them to remind me that my time on earth was short. And the skull is also my clever way of acknowledging the whole ghost thing. The roses are for my mom.” He waited for Riley to laugh. When he didn’t, Tony shifted onto his back. He wanted to see him. “I told you it was stupid.”
Riley smiled. “I think it’s profound and the skull is kinda sexy.”
“Do you have any tattoos?” Sexy, huh?
Riley glanced down at his almost naked body and raised an eyebrow. “My wolf would never sit still for that.”
“My dad has a tattoo.”
“I know he does. Maybe we can ask him about it.”
Tony nodded weakly. As soon as they figured out how to wake him. Tony was pulled from his sad thoughts with a kiss from Riley. He smiled and leaned back, letting Riley lie on top of him, skin to skin.
It was nice. It was very nice.
It had worked. Tony stood at the foot of his father’s bed, watching as he slept, actually slept, and not lie in a coma like the one he’d been in for the last six weeks. They’d given him a transfusion using the synthesized blood and it had worked. Whatever poison was left in his system, it was being flushed out.
Eva had wanted to come back out to The Falls but their mother had said no. It was early yet and she’d promised to call the moment Connor woke up.
Now that his father was getting better, Tony wanted to go home. While being with his family was nice and he was happy that his father was recovering, he wanted to be in Oasis…with Riley. Riley had camped out in his room, they even slept in the same bed but he wouldn’t do anything past kissing. ‘Not in his parents’ house.’ Tony was more than ready to leave.
He looked over at Riley, who was on the phone. Being here made Riley sad and Tony had even heard him crying late one night. He’d been so scared that he’d done something wrong that he hadn’t said anything, just stayed real quiet. Riley had stopped soon after and had curled up against him in the bed and because he was supposed to be asleep, he couldn’t even turn around and hug him back.
Tony had spent every moment trying to make Riley smile after that but it was getting harder to do. The night of the full moon, Uncle Caleb came by the house and an hour before nightfall, he and Riley had left together. Tony hadn’t though much of it at the time; Caleb used to come for Dre all the time. But after that night, Riley couldn’t sleep. He was jumpy, anxious, and just so very sad.
Tony walked over to the bed where his father was sleeping peacefully. “Dad, I’m sorry I can’t stay any longer but Riley needs me now, like I needed him. I’ll be back soon though. I love you.”
He looked at his dad for a bit longer and then straightened up and turned to his best friend, who was watching him. “You ready to go?”
Riley nodded once, the tension in his body radiating out.
They stopped to hug his mother and aunt in the hallway and then made a beeline for the hospital doors. Soon, they were in the car, heading out of town. Tony watched as Riley slowly unclenched hands that were gripping the steering wheel. What’s wrong Riley?
They made good time and were back in Oasis Landing by nightfall. He was exhausted and just wanted to go home and sleep but he also wanted to be with Riley.
“Your place or mine?”
Tony looked over at his friend and smiled. They could do that now, couldn’t they? “Your place.”
Riley nodded and turned left at the light. He pulled up to his home and turned the car off but didn’t get out. He just sat staring at his windshield.
“Riley?” Tony said softly.
“Do you want to talk about it?”
“No. Not really.” Riley glanced over at him and shook his head for emphasis.
“Okay. We don’t have to talk now. But you know I’m…I’m here for you, right? That I’ll listen whenever you need to talk?”
“I know, babe.” Riley reached over and gave him a kiss before grabbing the keys from the ignition and getting out of the car. Tony watched him for a minute before following.
Rae watched as Riley and her son left the hospital. “I hope that poor boy is okay.”
Adeya glanced up. “Who?”
“Riley. His mother disowned him.”
“Who’s his mother, do we know her?”
Rae smiled at her sister, she would freak. “Layla Cullen-Vazquez.”
“What? The she-wolf?” Adeya practically screeched.
Rae laughed, the first real laugh she’d had in over a month. Her husband was going to be okay and her children were living decent lives. Her heart had never felt so light. “Yup. Same woman.”
“But he seems so nice.” Ade clapped her hands over her mouth. “Sorry, that was really mean.”
“Riley is a sweetheart, takes after his father.”
“He and Tony seem close…”
Rae wrapped an arm around her sister. “There is so much I have to fill you in on. I’m a blessed woman these days Ade.”
AN: So, Tony’s tattoo is different from the one he had in Chapter 5. There isn’t a real reason other than I liked this one better.