Ash and Ember

Ash and Ember - Chapter 8: Comfortable Lies


Chapter 8: Comfortable Lies

17 November 2018, Saturday 6:12 AM

Grant's phone buzzed on the nightstand. He grunted and picked it up.

"Facebook?" He frowned, still forging through the fog of sleep, then his eyes widened. He lay on his back and unlocked the phone to read the message.

'Hi, Grant. Are you saying Troy Beckford is at 41 Winter Meadow? Right now?' The message was from Brian Hicks, and it was just sent to him moments ago.

Grant smiled. 'Success! Contact with Troy's friend!' He happily tapped out a response. 'Yes. We're both here.'

He watched while Brian typed a response.

'Good. We'll be there in ten minutes.'

Grant's eyes widened. He sat up. 'Wait!' His fingers moved quickly over the phone's digital keypad. 'He doesn't know I told you!'

He stared at the phone, and he watched the status of the message.

'Unread.' A minute went by, and it was still unread. It was very likely Brian and, whoever "we" included were in a car and driving.

"Oh crap. CRAP."

Grant threw back the covers. He quickly pulled on a pair of jeans, a sweater, and a pair of thick socks. He opened his bedroom door.

The light was on downstairs, and he could smell coffee. Troy was an early riser, and he had already started his day.

Grant pelted down the stairs.

"Troy?" He bombed into the kitchen and looked wildly around. 'No Troy.'

The side door opened, and Troy entered. He wore his working clothes, his toolbelt and had a pencil behind an ear. "Hey, Grant." He looked amused. Grant knew his hair was crazy. "You all right?"

"Ah, we're gonna have company." Grant bit his lip.

"Okay?" Troy shook his head. " Is it bad company?"

Grant heard a car outside. He shrugged helplessly. "I guess we'll see?"

Troy looked confused, and he glanced at the door. "Grant, what's going on?" There were the sounds of two car doors as they opened and closed.

A few moments passed, then there was an insistent knock on the door.

Grant made a pained face. "Uh, that's for you."

Troy was very confused now. "What?"

Another knock. "Troy? It's us. Open up, man."

Troy jerked. Grant heard a sharp intake of breath from the thin man. He looked at Grant with a shocked expression. Then Troy turned to the door. He took two steps and opened it.

A tall, broad-shouldered man with close-cropped blonde hair and a square jaw stepped inside. He wordlessly wrapped his massive arms around Troy and held him tight against his chest. A black-haired woman followed, her green eyes showed both relief and concern, and she put her hand on Troy's back.

Troy held on. Grant saw him frown and the tracks of tears on his face.

Finally, the big man gave him a little room in his arms. He swallowed, and he pushed back, but he kept his hands firmly on Troy's shoulders. He looked directly into Troy's face, and his eyes glittered with unshed tears. His voice was deep and gravelly with emotion.

"Bro, I'm so fucking pissed at you right now."

17 November 2018, Saturday 6:21 AM

Troy was blown away. "Brian, Natalie," he shook his head. "How did you find me?" Brian still had his hands clamped on Troy's shoulders as if he thought Troy might try to run.

Natalie smiled at him. "We've been looking for you." She looked over at Grant, then back to Troy. "Your friend saw Brian's Facebook post about you, and he reached out."

Troy heard a grunt of displeasure from Grant. Brian looked over at Grant as well. "Sorry. We don't play games, man. Best to get it all out in the open, right off the bat." His tone was to the point, but not harsh.

Troy felt overwhelmed. "You were looking for me?"

Natalie put her hands on her hips. "Troy." She shook her head. "You really have to ask? Of course, we were looking for you!" Her voice attempted to be playful, but Troy could see the worry on her face.

Brian watched him closely. "Here, let's sit before you fall." He led Troy to the couch, and they each took a position on either side of him. Both never looked away from Troy.

Troy blinked. "Wait. Wait. This is Grant's house." He shook his head. "We can't just invade like this."

"Grant's house?" Brian frowned. He started to continue, and Troy felt a moment of panic.

He jumped in before his friend could start with his questions. "Brian, I'm here because Grant is renting a room to me." He looked meaningfully at the big man. "But it's still his house."

Brian sat back. He eyed Troy, and he slowly nodded. "Okay." His tone showed that he wasn't sure what was going on, but that he would leave his questions concerning the house where they lay.

Grant cleared his throat. "You're all welcome here. I can go and give you guys some privacy."

Troy looked down at his lap. This was happening far too fast. But his hand was forced, and he knew it was only a matter of time before Grant found out.

"No. Stay, please." Troy felt the warm hands of Brian and Natalie on his back. It was encouraging and made him feel a little stronger. He took a breath. "Look, Grant. I need to tell you some things. Some stuff about the house, and some about me too." He shook his head. "And I wouldn't blame you if you wanted to revisit our rental agreement after you hear it."

"Bro, you've got a place to stay. Anytime." Brian hugged his shoulders.

Troy smiled. "Thanks." He focused back on Grant. "Okay, so I guess I'll start back in August of 2013. When we first came here to Vermont."


17 November 2018, Saturday 9:34 AM

Grant sat in the armchair, a mug of coffee in hand. Earlier, Troy confessed to being gay, living in the house with his partner, and he detailed the loss of John and their home.

Grant acted as if it were all news to him. He didn't know what else to do. And he noticed a very intense look from Brian as he talked.

But it seemed Natalie and Brian were genuine friends to Troy. They were mystified as to why he would let himself get so low, and not contact them for help.

"It's just; you reminded me of him. Everything about you guys, it was too," Troy shook his head, "it was too painful. I had to cut ties. I couldn't take it."

It started to make sense to Grant. He was a neutral party in Troy's process of loss. He was safe. But it also seemed that Troy was finally ready to reconnect. Grant may have accelerated things a bit faster than Troy had planned, but he was still here. And he was coping.

Troy spoke quietly to Natalie, and while he did, Brian stood up. "Grant, can I talk to you?"

Grant's stomach did a concerned jig. "Uh, yeah." Grant led Brian back to the room he planned to turn into the den. Brian closed the door behind them, and he turned to stare at Grant.

Grant swallowed and smiled nervously. "So, what can I do for you?"

Brian crossed his thick arms over his chest, and his eyes never moved from Grant's face. "How'd you know this was Troy's old house?"

Grant kept the panic off of his face. 'Will this guy go apeshit if he knows about the journal?' He waved a hand, "Ah, uh, it was on the disclosures." He wet his lips. "Yeah. When I bought the place." That was likely true if Troy's name was on the title and mortgage. Though, Grant never noticed if it was actually there.

Brian tapped his foot. "And you found Troy, how? We've been looking for him for over a year, and we couldn't manage it."

"Craigslist." Grant sighed. "My fence was falling over, and I picked the guy with the lowest prices." He shrugged. "It happened to be Troy." Inwardly, Grant cringed. 'That's true, at least.'

Brian flinched. "Craigslist. We should have thought of that. Shit. He always used his contracting website before, never Craigslist." He narrowed his eyes a little. "And you didn't say anything to him? About his owning the house?"

Brian was such a big guy. He loomed over Grant. He also stood in front of the door and blocked the way. Grant was sure that wasn't by accident. He shook his head. "No. I wanted him to tell me when he was ready." He frowned. "But then I saw your Facebook post. And it became apparent to me that he needs his friends."

Brian stared down at him. His jaw worked, and slowly, piece by piece, he relaxed. He nodded. "All right." He gave Grant a little smile. "We owe you. You brought Troy back into our lives." He stretched out a meaty paw of a hand. "Thanks."

Grant reached and gripped. There was an immense, restrained strength in that hand. "You're welcome." Grant smiled. "It's obvious you guys care about him a lot."

"We do." Brian looked sad. "We cared about both of them." He shook his head. "When John died, we knew it would be hard for Troy." He looked around the room. "But losing the house, the fighting with John's family after he died, and losing most of his tools really drove Troy down."

The fighting with family was new information to Grant. He nodded. "Yeah. I get it." He smiled. "Well, he does great work. I'm sure he's going to be able to get back on his feet. And he's welcome to stay here, pay a little rent, and get his life back together."

Brian still observed him. And Grant watched as his eyes softened. "You took him in off the street. You care about him."

Grant swallowed. "Ah, sure." He waved a hand. "I mean, he's a person, and he needs help."

Brian's mouth slowly shifted to a half-smile - almost a smirk. "Yeah, that's what I meant. Of course." He turned and opened the door. Without another word, he turned and walked back into the living room.

Grant frowned at the open doorway of the den.

'What did he mean by that?'


17 November 2018, Saturday 11:14 AM

Troy waved as Natalie and Brian climbed into their car. They pulled away, and he turned to go back inside the house.

He had so many things that fought for attention in his mind, and a myriad of feelings that crashed and shattered against one another.

Troy sat on the couch. He was happy, exhausted, confused, and annoyed. That last one is the emotion that he grabbed onto.

Grant sat in the armchair. He was on the very edge of the seat, and he rubbed his hands together in an obviously nervous motion. He also refused to look at Troy. Grant bit his lip, and he stared at a spot on the floor a few feet in front of him.

"Grant, I'm upset with you." Troy set his jaw, and he watched Grant squirm. "Why did you contact Brian? Why didn't you talk to me about it?"

The black-haired man grimaced. "I just thought you could use your friends back in your life." He exhaled, and his shoulders slumped. "You're right. I should have asked if it'd be okay."

Troy ran his tongue over his teeth. Grant still couldn't look him in the eye. 'Good. He needs to feel bad.' "So, we need to lay down some ground rules." Troy pointed at him. "YOU are not allowed to decide when I'm ready to see my friends. Or when I take whatever step you think it is that I should take." He frowned. "You don't think I know how fucked up I am?" Troy thumped his own chest with his palm. "I know better than anybody." He gritted his teeth. "But I'll be damned if I become a project. I don't need you to fix me." His eyes narrowed. "You pull something like this again, and I'm out. I'll leave. You'll have to find another renter."

Grant looked miserable. "I, I'm sorry. I am. I promise. Okay? I won't do anything like this again." He finally looked up at Troy. "But, you're wrong about one thing. You're not fucked up." He shook his head. "I don't think that at all."

It was such a disarming and unexpected thing for Troy to hear. He swallowed. "Well, we'll have to have a difference of opinion there." He allowed a tiny smile, and Grant returned it. He rubbed his hands on his flannel-covered belly. "I've got to get started on the siding. But, I'm hungry as hell. I've only had coffee today."

Grant perked up. "Did you want to go get breakfast somewhere?" Grant looked at his phone. "Or lunch? It's after eleven." Grant made a face. "I think I owe you after this."

Troy couldn't argue there. "All right. We should go to Maria's Bagels. They do great bagel sandwiches. You can get whatever you want on them."

Grant stood up. He seemed relieved that the conversation was over. "Okay, great. Let's go."

They went out to Grant's car. They got in, and soon they were on their way.

Troy was still a little irritated at having been forced to reconnect with Brian and Natalie. However, he was also thankful to have them back in his life. It was a complex and challenging thing for him to work through in his mind. He gave directions to the bagel place, and he rolled the events of the morning over in his head.

They parked, and Grant reached for his door handle. "Wait." Troy put his hand on Grant's arm. Grant's dark eyes looked at him, and Troy sighed. "Thanks." He nodded. "Despite how it went down, it was still good to see them again. So, thanks."

Grant smiled. "I'm happy, Troy. Sorry, again, for meddling." He shook his head. "I won't pull anything like that again. You've got my word."

Troy smiled back. "All right. That's all I ask." Troy breathed a satisfied breath, and he opened his door. "Two breakfast bagels, coming up."

Grant got out, careful to avoid the patch of ice under his car door, and he made a face. "Hey. Maybe I want lunch?"

Troy snorted. "Those are both for me! You can get your own!"

With a laugh, Grant led the way into the little shop.


17 November 2018, Saturday 2:45 PM

Grant had his rump up in the air. He sweated profusely, and his limbs shook from effort, as he neared the limit of his endurance.

He breathed once more in the down dog asana, and then he slowly shifted to plank. He held the asana and breathed. Sweat dripped from his nose onto the yoga mat under him. He tried to put his mind somewhere else as his body screamed at him to stop.

He didn't listen. After thirty seconds he flowed to the next asana, the cobra. His legs and hips were flush against the ground, while he arched his back and held himself up with his arms. His eyes were closed, and he convinced himself he had enough left for the final asana.

Thirty seconds passed, and he turned over. He extended his torso and his legs, ramrod straight. He rested his heels on the floor, while his arms supported him. This pose was the tabletop asana. The only things touching the ground were the heels of his feet and the palms of his hands.

He fought hard to maintain his form. He felt his core muscles struggle, and he gritted his teeth. He had to reposition his hand as it started to slide because of his perspiration. Slowly, torturously, the thirty seconds elapsed. When they did, Grant let his body relax all in one relieved flop onto his sweaty mat.

He lay on his back and breathed hard. He wore only a pair of compression shorts. His workout shirts were all in the wash, and Troy was busy outside with the siding. So he felt pretty safe, wearing what was essentially a skin-tight skimpy outfit that left little to the imagination.

"You gonna live?"

Grant startled at the sound of Troy's voice. He looked, and Troy stood in the kitchen. The man observed him from a few feet away, and he had an amused smile on his face. His green eyes seemed even brighter and more focused at that moment. 'Oh no. How long was he watching me?'

Grant sat up, well aware his crotch was on display when he lay flat. "Heh. Yeah. I'll live." He was a little embarrassed, but Troy didn't seem put out at all. "Uh, how's the siding project?" He picked up his workout towel that lay nearby and wiped his face.

"Good. Though, I need to see if the cans of external paint in the garage are still good. John and I saved the leftovers after we painted the outside a few years back." Troy's face fell when he mentioned John.

Grant looked at him from his spot on the floor. He threw the towel over his shoulder, and he stood up. "I'm really sorry about your partner, Troy." Grant stepped over near Troy. "He sounded like a good man."

Troy obviously still hurt when it came to John, but he smiled a little. "Thanks. He really was." Troy cleared his throat. "Ah, I'm going to go see about that paint." Then Troy did a once over on Grant. His eyes maybe lingered just a second longer on Grant's groin than the rest of him. They came back to rest on Grant's face. "You are a sweaty wreck."

Grant subtly moved the towel, so it covered his crotch. "Heh. Yeah. I'm about to go take my shower."

Troy nodded. "Good plan." He turned. "Okay, you know where I'll be."

Grant waited until Troy left through the garage door. Then he moved the towel and looked down at himself. "You need to stop that!" An obscene bulge showed exactly where his cock was through the thin, stretchy material. When Troy checked him out, Grant started getting an erection, and luckily he had the towel to cover himself.

He shook his head, and he went upstairs for his shower.


17 November 2018, Saturday 6:12 PM

"He was so fucking skinny." Brian grimaced and served dinner to Natalie. She sat at the table, and she watched him, her green eyes tracking him as he moved around the room.

"I know." She sighed. Brian poured two tall glasses of ice water, and he came back to the table. The big man sat and still wore a worried frown on his face.

Natalie reached over and patted his arm. "At least he's alive." She shook her head. "After we hadn't heard from him for so long, I wondered if he," she couldn't quite finish the statement, and she looked down at her food. "Well, anyway. I'm glad he's okay." She picked up her fork.

"Is he though?" Brian cut into the turkey, quinoa meatloaf he prepared. He waved the fork, and little bits of ground meat fell back onto his plate. Natalie could tell he was worked up. "If Grant hadn't found him, RANDOMLY found him, he'd still be out on the street."

Natalie took a bite of her food. Brian was an excellent cook, and with his rigorous workout and diet regimen, it made the most sense for him to do that particular chore. She took a moment and forced herself to slow down and enjoy the bite of food. She swallowed and took a sip of water. Natalie eyed Brian and waited until he had taken a bite. "I think he's fine, right where he is." She shrugged. "Yeah, it has to be tough, living in that house again." She cocked her head in thought. "But did you see how Grant looked at him? How attentive? How concerned he was?"

Brian chewed and nodded. He swallowed. "Yeah. I saw." He made a face. "But I have to wonder if he's got an ulterior motive. I mean, the guy's obviously interested in Troy."

Natalie made a noise. "You mean, interested in him, physically? Is Grant gay?"

Brian's expression was easy for Natalie to read. "I think he wants more from Troy than he lets on." He shoved a whole florette of broccoli into his mouth.

"Hmmm." Natalie knew that Brian was a guardian of his friends. He took any oddity as a potential threat, and he was a vigilant guy. “Well, Grant did give him a place to stay. He also got Troy cleaned up and off the street.” Troy told them what Grant did for him, and Natalie was grateful for his help.

Brian sighed. “Yeah. I know.” He stabbed another bite. “All I’m saying is, we should watch this guy.”

Natalie nodded in agreement. Though Brian was an observant man, it appeared that he missed something she noticed. ‘Guess you didn’t see how Troy looked at Grant.’ She took another bite and smiled to herself.


17 November 2018, Saturday 9:41 PM

"I'm headed up. Goodnight, Grant." Troy stretched as he stood in the living room.

Grant looked over from his spot at the table. He checked internet service and plans available on his laptop. Currently, he had to use the Hotspot on his phone for connectivity, and it was slow. So his self-appointed task now was to resolve the issue.

"Oh, okay. Goodnight, Troy." Grant gave him that lopsided smile. "Sleep well."

Troy nodded. "Thanks. You too."

Troy walked upstairs, and he entered his bedroom. He turned on the bedside lamp and shut the door to the room. Troy undressed, and he got under the covers.

Now that there was central heat the house was so much more comfortable. Grant supplemented with a fire during the day to keep the furnace from running all the time. However, the temp at night never got below 62 F now.

That meant Troy stripped down to his underwear. They were a tiny bit too big for him, but mediums were the closest thing to a good fit that he could get. He reached down and put his thumb under the waistband. There was barely any tension there in the elastic. If he could get his legs into a pair of smalls, he would wear those instead. He sighed. He really needed to put on some weight.

Though that was happening, it was far too slow for Troy's taste. However, Troy already noticed that he had started to fill out a little. And the scale said he was now at 162 pounds. He'd already put on a couple of pounds in just a few days of eating right. It was like his body was eager to get back to it's normal, healthy weight.

Troy's hand lingered at his waist, and he licked his lips. That wasn't all his body was eager for. Just having his hand somewhat close to his dick woke the organ. And it was now uncomfortably hard in his briefs.

Seeing Grant sweaty, almost naked, in the midst of strenuous exertion, and in those very revealing shorts burned an image into Troy's mind.

'No. You shouldn't think about Grant that way. You saw how he covered himself up. He didn't like the attention.' Troy reached past the waistband, and his hand closed on his hard shaft. 'Something else. Think about something else.'

He tried. It was painful to think of what he had with John, and so he attempted to conjure some fantasy with attractive men he saw while out on jobs or in other places.

Troy began to stroke, and he sighed. It had been months since he had masturbated. It was almost as if his body forgot what it was like to desire sex. But now that he was no longer in survival mode, that was decidedly over.

His other hand dipped below the waist of his shorts. It cupped his balls, and his fingers pressed, nice and firm on the spot between his testicles and his anus. It was his "on" button, and he groaned a little.

Grant's sweaty, taut, handsome body sprang into his mind. Troy tried to push it out.

'Troy. Ah, god.' He could hear Grant's voice in his mind, and the fantasy morphed. Troy gritted his teeth. It had taken over completely, and it was now Grant he saw.

Troy made a sound of surrender. He was too close to stop. And in his fantasy Grant lay on his front and writhed under him as Troy slid his member into his tight, muscular backside.

"Ah, Grant." It was the slightest whisper from Troy's lips. "Oh fuck." He threw back the blankets, and he looked down at his fabric covered hand, as it slid up and down his cock, hidden by the material of his underwear.

His back arched, and he let his neck relax. His head went back, and he suppressed the sound of his grunt as much as he could. He came with an incredible sensation, and he felt a flood of semen spurt out, into the material of the briefs and on his hand.

His breaths came in quiet, staccato gasps. Then he finished with a shiver. He lay there a moment, and let his breathing calm a bit. Finally, Troy stood up, and he looked down at himself. Semen soaked the front of his shorts, and it began to run down his leg. It was a lot, even for him - too much for the underwear to contain.

"Okay, wow." Troy chuckled. He peeled off the wet material, and he wiped himself up as well as he could. Though now he smelled of spunk.

He still needed to take his shower. And he was suddenly glad he waited to do so.

Troy grabbed a clean set of underwear, and he quietly opened his door. He checked the landing. He could hear Grant's keyboard downstairs as the man still worked at his computer.

He grinned, and he slipped out. He got into the bathroom and closed the door. "Whew." He felt as if he got away with something, and that added to his strange satisfaction.

Though as he waited for the water to warm, he felt a stab of guilt. 'You were fantasizing about Grant in the house you shared with your dead partner.' Troy grimaced. 'You just need to stop. Besides, Grant is off-limits. He's probably not even gay.'

With a final admonishment to himself, Troy got in the shower, and he washed away the proof of his ardor.


18 November 2018, Sunday 4:27 AM

A stony, grim look was on Grant's face as he stood at the bathroom sink. His cheek still had the impression of the sheet, where he had just awoken, and stumbled into the bathroom.

Luckily, it was very early, and Troy was still in his room. Grant hoped he was asleep.

He ran some water, and he took a drink by cupping his hand under the flow and slurping it down. Grant turned off the water, and hung his head. His hands were on the sink, and he leaned forward.

"What the hell was that?" He whispered, and he shook his head. His mind thrashed about, as he tried to justify what happened.

He wiped a little more at his groin and his stomach. He also took a couple of loops of toilet paper to carry back into his room. He was going to try and clean things up as well as he could.

He woke only a few minutes ago, as he was in the throes of a very erotic, very stimulating dream. He picked a hell of a night to sleep naked. And he made a tremendous mess all over his belly, and in his sheets. Grant hadn't had a wet dream since he was a teenager, and even then only a couple of times.

He exhaled and closed his eyes. "It doesn't mean anything. It was a dream. You can't help what you dream."

Grant opened his eyes, and he stared into his brown orbs. "It doesn't mean anything." He took one more long look, then he blinked and turned away.

He quietly slipped back into his bedroom. There, he rubbed his sheets mostly clean of semen. Though now his whole room smelled like it belonged to a horny teenage boy.

He finished, and he got back into bed. He made a face as he lay in a cold, wet spot and he shifted a little to try and get out of it.

Finally comfortable, he sighed. "Okay. No more dreams about Troy."

He rolled over, and he went to an unsettled and confused sleep.

Author's Note: Please let me know your thoughts about the chapter at the following email address link.   Wayne Gray

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