This is not an excerpt, but rather a cut scene from the Cut & Run series. I hope you all sob just like I did when I wrote it.
1992. Bluefield, West Virginia.
Ty Grady was spread out on the hood of his Ford Bronco, parked on a scenic overlook with a view of the night sky that was to die for. He held his newly earned tassel in his hand, letting the thick bundle slide across his fingers, twirling it around, watching the maroon and white threads cascade down his palm.
Beside him, David Whitlock was doing the same thing. His tassel was a different color, but the two high schools had graduated on the same night. David and Ty had foregone the Senior Week rush to the beach to steal this moment of quiet together.
Separated by nothing but a state line, the Bluefield Beavers of West Virginia and the Graham High G-Men of Virginia were two of the biggest rival high schools on the East Coast. They even shared a football stadium, and the Beaver versus Graham football game was the biggest event of the year in both cities.
This year, their senior year, there had been over 10,000 people in attendance to watch as Ty had tackled David so viciously that he had broken his leg in three places. That had been the start of their relationship.
Ty wasn’t sure what he would call David. His boyfriend? His lover? A fuck buddy? He just wasn’t sure how any of it worked. They’d been together since the fall, ever since Ty had gone to David’s hospital room the next day to apologize and bring him the game ball from the night before. He’d written his number on David’s cast, his fingers trembling with nerves as he did so. He’d exchanged numbers with plenty of people in his four years of high school, but David was the first one to take his breath away.
They’d been nearly inseparable since. They’d shared their first time together over Christmas break, renting a hotel room a few towns over and spending the entire night fumbling their way through the ins and outs of how to have sex with another man. They had both known it would hurt, and they’d spent more time asking each other if they were okay than they had getting off. It had been worth it, though. It had all been worth it.
Ty put the tassel on his chest and shifted his shoulders so he could meet David’s eyes.
David was a good-looking kid; tall and lithe, dark hair, blue eyes, perpetual tan. His nose was crooked from a break when he was younger, and his teeth seemed to be bigger than his mouth, which gave him the appearance of always smiling. He also had dimples, which Ty couldn’t seem to get over.
“Have you decided what you’re going to do?”
Nerves fluttered through Ty’s body and he took a deep breath. “Not really. I’m still … I don’t know.”
“Well …” David stopped and seemed to steel himself as he looked up at the night sky. “I think I need to tell you … I think … I think I might love you, Ty.” He looked back at Ty with wide eyes.
Ty’s breath caught and he nodded, trying to remain calm even though adrenaline and fear and all sorts of other emotions had just coursed through his body at Mach speed. He’d been expecting this, had lain awake at night trying to decide how to deal with it, and yet it still surprised him, and he still didn’t know how to handle it.
He reached out and took David’s hand in his, squeezing it. “I … I just don’t…”
“Ty, I know how you feel about this, okay? I’m scared as hell too.”
Ty shook his head.
“Come to UVA with me.”
“Don’t tell me you can’t, because I already know you got in. Your brother told me.”
Ty cursed under his breath and looked away. Goddamn, Deuce, why couldn’t he mind his own business just once?
“You can apply for financial aid. And you know as well as I do that scout was interested in you. They might even offer you a football scholarship. If not, you could walk on. We both know you’re good enough.”
“I know you can. We could both work part-time, help pay your way.”
“Davy,” Ty said with a deep breath. “I’m not going to put that on you.”
“You wouldn’t be putting it on me. This is what people do, Ty. You don’t have to shoulder the weight of the world by yourself, okay? I’m your partner. I’ll help you, we’ll do this together.”
Ty was finding it harder to breathe as he met David’s eyes. The sincerity and hope he saw there was almost painful, and what David was saying was tempting. It was so tempting to go all in and see where they could go together. But it didn’t feel right, and the hell of it was Ty didn’t know why.
“Look … you’re going to UVA, you’re going to be a big time lawyer, and you’re going to need all the brains you have in there to do it,” he said with a swipe of his fingers against the side of David’s face. David snorted. “I just … I just don’t see that being my life.”
David closed his eyes. Ty watched the despair sweep over him, and David turned his head away. He didn’t say anything, and the sounds of the early summer night began to encroach on them. Ty reached out for him.
David gripped Ty’s hand and held it to his chest. “You’re still looking at the Marines, aren’t you?”
Ty swallowed hard, staring at David’s profile in the moonlight. “It just feels right. I don’t know why.”
David met his eyes, looking grim. “You could be anything you wanted to be.”
Ty nodded, giving him a weak smile. David wasn’t the first person to tell him that, but he was the first person Ty believed.
“We could be together, Ty. I know we’d work.”
Ty opened his mouth to respond, then closed it again as nothing came out. His heart was pounding so hard that it was hard to catch a breath.
“I think you’re scared.”
“I am,” Ty admitted readily.
“I think you’re scared of me. And I think you’re running for the sake of running.”
“You might be right. But…” He searched David’s eyes, hating the crushing feeling in his chest, hating himself for causing so much sadness in David’s clear blue eyes. He reached for David’s hand and rolled onto his side. David rolled too, facing him. Ty pulled him closer and touched their noses together.
“You’re everything I could ask for.”
“I just keep asking myself, if you can be so damn perfect for me, but I still can’t tell you I love you, maybe that’s just not for me.”
“What does that mean?”
“Maybe I’m just not … built for loving someone.”
“You’re so full of shit, Ty. Goddammit.”
“You want the white picket fence and the dog and the day to day job, and just the thought makes me want to jump off the mountain. The only part of it that sounds wonderful is you.”
David’s hand found Ty’s cheek and he took a deep breath. “Ty, I would do whatever you wanted.”
“That’s not fair to you.”
“I don’t care,” David insisted.
“But you will. And I will. You’re my best friend. I’ve shared things with you I never wanted to share with anyone else. And … God, you’re sexy as hell.”
David laughed and lowered his head, rubbing his forehead against Ty’s. Ty lifted his chin to kiss him, and they lingered over it for a moment before David broke it off and huffed.
Ty took a deep breath, trying to get up the nerve to continue. Despite his efforts, his voice waivered when he spoke. “This has nothing to do with us or what people would think. It has everything to do with me being terrified.”
“What if you wake up in ten years and realize that I was never good enough?”
“That’s ridiculous,” David hissed.
“It’s not. Because I can’t even say the words. You tell me you love me, and I can’t even say it back.”
David swallowed hard, not able to meet Ty’s eyes.
“I keep asking myself; if I can’t love someone like you, can I do it at all?”
“Ty, don’t do this,” David whispered. His voice shook as he fought back tears.
Ty’s throat was getting tighter, and the sadness and frustration began to overwhelm his convictions. “I’ve wanted to say it so many times, but I just … I can’t say it and not mean it.”
“I know. You can’t lie,” David said with a weak laugh. “That’s one of the things I like about you so much.”
Ty kissed him again, holding onto him hard. David’s fingers gripped at his T-shirt. It was like they were trying to keep each other from drifting away no matter how inevitable it was.
Ty broke off the kiss long enough to speak in a rush. “If I go with the Marines I’ll have eight years of service, right? And you’re going to have eight years of school with law school.”
“So, we both go, we do our thing–”
“You don’t get shot in Iraq.”
“That would be the idea, yes. And in eight years we’ll see where we are. If neither of us has found someone, then … we’ll be older, we’ll be smarter. We’ll give it a real try then.”
“Ty,” David said, huffing the name with a laugh. “You are always plotting.”
“You deserve to be happy. And I’m terrified I can’t make you happy.”
“You do make me happy.”
“But you deserve the chance to find someone who can look you in the eye and say they love you. Say it every day.”
David met his eyes, nodding his head minutely. “Maybe in eight years that’ll be you.”
“I hope so,” Ty whispered with true feeling. “But don’t wait, okay? Go to UVA, make straight A’s, get laid a lot–”
David hit him in the chest and he grunted in surprise.
“Why the hell can’t you just be easy?”
Ty laughed and pulled him closer, but he was asking himself the same question. Was it fear? Wanderlust? Some sort of self-loathing that was keeping him from truly being happy with one of the most decent, attractive, amazing people he knew?
David laid his head on Ty’s shoulder, and Ty held him close, feeling the sense of loss sweep over him even as they lay together on the hood of his Bronco.
“I’m sorry, Davy.”
Ty turned his head to rest his lips against David’s temple. His chest was twisting and uncomfortable, the pain scattering through him even though he knew they were doing the right thing. They were young and stupid, but this was the right decision.
David sniffed and turned his head so his face was pressed into Ty’s chest. They were both going to cry and neither of them cared.
“I’m glad you broke my leg, Tyler,” David whispered brokenly.
Ty swallowed past the knot in his throat. “I’m glad your defensive line sucked ass, David.”
They both began laughing. Tears trailed down Ty’s face and he didn’t try to wipe them away. Maybe one day he’d be able to give everything he had to someone. But if he couldn’t give himself to someone like David, then who the hell could he find that was more perfect for him?
He held David tight, kissing him like it was their last chance, basking in the light for as long as he could. Ty knew in his heart that he wasn’t destined for love. His path was somewhere else. Somewhere darker. And tomorrow would be his first step.