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Thursday, February 25, 2016

TLR Chapter 54

Vic saw the dark circles under Brendon's eyes. He'd noticed that Brendon had been losing weight as well. And there was no missing the fact that he was at the bakery from 4am til closing every day.

He'd tried to tell Brendon to slow down but the other man had only become angry and told him to mind his own business.

In the meantime, Brendon was becoming more and more short tempered which caused all of his workers to dread coming to work in the morning.

Spence looked at the others joining him the table they were sharing in the lodge restaurant. "Have you guys noticed that Bren hasn't been himself for a while? I think he's losing weight, even though he eats the stuff at the bakery. He's one of the few bakers I know who is rail thin."

Arnie chuffed a laugh. "Yeah, doesn't look good when the baker is skinnier than the baguettes he bakes. Someone should say something."

"I'm going to." Vic said quietly. "Enough is enough. We need that assistant head baker for Brendon, and he's got to slow down before he kills himself."

Spence looked at Tristan. "We've known the ol' grouch for a while now. I don't believe I've ever seen him anywhere else around the resort except for at the bar or at the bakery."

Vic nodded. "You're right Spence."

Tristan looked away. He'd noticed it too, of course, and he worried for Brendon's health. "Who's going to tell James? I know that if I do it I'll be out of a job faster than I can blink."

"I'll do it," Vic said. "As soon as I see James has a free moment."

 Spence said, "You're the brave one." He grinned at Arnie. "We're the cowards."

Vic laughed. "Either the brave one or the stupid one."

"Fools rush in where Angels fear to tread." Tristan quipped.

Spence asked, "Vic, why don't you talk to James about hiring an assistant head baker, then Bren can take some time off once in a while?"

Just then, James and Jeff walked into the restaurant and took a table nearby.

"Well, now is as good a time as any." Vic said resigned to the fact that he was going to be the one to speak up.

He walked over to where the two older men sat and asked if he could join them for a moment. The determined look on Vic's face alerted them to the fact that this was not going to be a social visit.

"Have a seat, Vic. What's on your mind?" Jeff asked as he moved over to make room for Vic.

James exchanged a look with Jeff at the seriousness of the younger man.

James asked, "Do you want something to drink while you talk to us?"

"No, thanks," Vic said with a wan smile. "I've got one at the table with the others. It's just that... there's something I needed to talk to you about. It's kind of important."

James nodded. "We're listening Vic, go ahead and tell us what you're concerned about." He said encouragingly.

"It's about Bren." Vic said, "He's been working 14 hour days every day, he never takes his days off. He's short tempered and losing a lot of weight. I know you were going to hire an assistant for him and it needs to be soon.  He's not healthy, and I know he's not happy." Vic concluded, waiting to see what the two older men would say.

James's eyebrow went up and he glanced at Jeff. "You're telling us that Brendon doesn't take his days off and is working 14 hour days?"

Vic sighed. "Yeah. I hate to be the one to drop the dime on him but he needs help, and he won't listen to me or Warren.  And frankly, the brats are too scared to say hello, let alone give him advice." Vic tried to joke.

James looked at Jeff.  "I’m sorry to say I haven’t noticed Bren wasn’t working his schedule,” he remarked.  “I know if you had noticed you would have said something, Jeff.”

Jeff shook his head sadly. "No, I admit that I hadn't been paying much attention. I know he's been there every time I've gone shopping, but I never took note of the days.  He's never put in for OT, which means he's been working for free. We have to stop this now." Jeff added worriedly.

"Vic, have you guys been taking your days off?" Jeff asked suddenly.

 "Yeah, we all take our days off, and we work our shifts and the bakery is covered at all times. Brendon insists on it."

"The only one he doesn't seem to be taking care of is himself." Jeff said sadly.

"Yeah," Vic said, "It's like he's afraid the place will stop running if he's not there." He glanced over his shoulder and saw Brendon at the bar talking to Jake.

"I'd better get going," He said quietly. "I don't mind speaking up for a friend but if he knows I said anything to you he'll make my life a living hell." He joked as he stood up. "I'll see you later, James. Jeff."

James shook his head and said, "Thanks Vic, for tipping us off and I want you to think about the position of assistant head baker too."

"I'd be thrilled, but we'd have to run it by Brendon first. I've been there a while now and he's never offered me the option. I don't want him to feel as though I'm being forced on him."

James smiled. "Don't worry about that. Jeff and I will be very tactful. If not, we'll just twist his arm behind his back until he agrees." The resort owner teased.

Vic grinned and waved goodbye, making his way back to the table he shared with the bakery brats sat.

Spence asked, "What did the big guns say?"

"They'll talk to him, and they offered me the position of assistant head baker.  I guess now it's a wait and see game."

Arnie's eyes widened. "Assistant head baker? Wow." He breathed.

"Yeah, wow, now I just have to see how Brendon takes that news. We've been needing one for a while now and Brendon has turned down every applicant."

Spence nodded. "Yeah...I know." He glanced at Tris. "The ol' grouch won't let anyone else take over his kitchen."  

Tristan smiled ruefully, "Yep, sounds like Brendon to me, all right.  I'm glad you said something Vic. Thank you."


James walked with Jeff over to where Brendon was sitting at the bar. He was nursing a beer while waiting for a plate of ribs. He had decided to switch off from his usual wings.

"Brendon, how are you?" Jeff asked cordially as he took a seat beside the Head Baker.

Brendon glanced at Jeff. "I'm fine Jeff. How are you?"

"Fine, just fine, thank you." Jeff replied, searching Brendon's face and seeing all that Vic had said was true. He felt guilty for not noticing it much sooner.

James came up and sat on Brendon's other side. "You look a bit tired and peaked to me." James observed.

Brendon looked between the two men. "I'm just fine." He insisted.

James said in a concerned manner. "You look tired Bren, I'm thinking that it might be good for you to take a little time off, perhaps relax here at the resort or take a short vacation."

Brendon gave James an incredulous look and glanced at Jeff. "That won't be necessary. A good night's sleep is all I need." He insisted.

"It's come to our attention that you've been working 14 hour days, seven days a week. You cannot, by law, work that many hours or days without a break. You need to delegate some of your duties and take the time off that you need." Jeff said firmly.

Brendon had the grace to flush a bit. "I don't ask anything extra. The baked goods need to be available for the resort and the guests."

James said, "Not at the expense of your health."

"Any brat who tried to do what you've been doing would have been grounded, or worse," Jeff said with a slight smile. "You can't treat yourself this badly, we won't allow it."

"So for the next two weeks, we want you to stay away from the bakery unless you're a customer. Take some time off. Recharge, relax. And if we see you working you'll be given another week off." Jeff told Brendon.

James nodded. "When you return you will only work an 8 hour shift and you will take your two days off...and I mean off, away from the bakery. You're not to step foot in it other than to obtain baked goods for yourself and then you will not go in the back, but stay in front like any other customer."

Bren scowled. "And who's supposed to keep things baked the rest of the time?" he asked a little angrily.

"Vic has been with you from the start." Jeff said, keeping his voice level. "We think that he can be your assistant head baker so that you can take your days off and work normal hours again."

Brendon frowned. He knew he was between a rock and a hard place with both James and Jeff being aware of what he'd been doing and there was no getting out of this one. He thought for a moment, and then said, "Well Vic pretty much knows what needs to be done and he's pretty good. He could be my assistant." Brendon replied reluctantly.

James nodded approvingly. "Well you can tell Vic that and we'll expect you to work out a schedule where you both have two days off and no one works more than an eight hour shift."

Brendon bit back a sigh and nodded. "Yes James...I'll do that."

"Good man." Jeff praised with a smile. "Your vacation starts tomorrow. No arguments." He said as he saw Brendon open his mouth to argue.

Brendon spluttered..."But...but...there's no time to prepare anything!"

James said, "You tell Vic to open and he'll take care of the rest. He knows what needs to be done by now. He's worked with you long enough to know and I understand from Jeff's records that your staff all are working the appropriate hours and are taking their respective days off." He looked at Jeff.   In the meantime, you'll take your two weeks to recuperate and get yourself healthy again."

"Two weeks sounds good. That will give you several days to relax and perhaps figure out something to do other than work. Perhaps you can take a little day trip somewhere." Jeff suggested. "But if we find you working at the bakery during those two weeks we'll tack another week onto your vacation." He warned.

James nodded. "If you protest too much we're going to think you belong to the brats instead of the tops...and I’ll have Heath examine you and make a recommendation for time off with sick pay...he might decide on a month."

Brendon's eyes widened with James's remarks and implied threat. "No James," He said quickly. "Two weeks will be just fine."

"But you are going to see Heath. You're underweight and overworked, and I'm sure he's going to have something to say about it." Jeff said.

James exchanged a look with Jeff and nodded. "All right, your vacation time begins tomorrow, after you've seen Heath. Jeff can take care of the time keeping and...I believe I saw Vic with some of your other workers at a table in the restaurant. It would be a good time to tell them and Vic that you're going to be on vacation as of tomorrow."

Brendon almost scowled. He realized though that Jeff and James were right. "I'll do that." He said with a small smile as he rose from his bar stool.

"Brendon," Jeff said, calling the other man's attention back to him.  "Remember to make an appointment with Heath. And take all of your time off. We're serious about you taking care of yourself."

Brendon looked at Jeff and nodded. "I'll make an appointment with Heath and take all my time off." He promised.

"Good. We'll see you in two weeks."

James nodded. "All right, we'll be keeping an eye on you Brendon."

Brendon said, "Yes Sir." He then made his way over to the table where he saw Vic. He approached the man and said, "Hello Vic, guys."

Vic smiled. "Hello Bren, good to see you."

Spence nodded. "Yeah, at least it's not in the kitchen." He joked.

Brendon said, "Well, I do leave the kitchen once in a while believe it or not." He smiled. "I was talkin' to James and Jeff, and Vic; if you're willin' I'd like you to be the assistant head baker. I'm going to take the next two weeks off."

Spence's eyes grew huge and he exchanged looks with the other men.

"Well that's great!" Tris said happily.  "I'm glad for you Vic, and I'm glad that you're going to take some time off, Brendon.  You deserve it."

Brendon smiled at Tris. "Thank you."

Vic smiled. "Thank you Bren. I'd be happy to take the position of assistant head baker so you can take some well-deserved time off."

Bren nodded. "All right. Vic you know the schedule so I don't have to tell you. We'll go over the coverage if need be, but Monday and Tuesdays are my regular days off."

Spence said, "I never knew that Bren."

Brendon gave Spence a look. "Now you do."

Arnie, who had been sitting quietly by, smiled and said, "We'll be ok, boss. You just take your vacation, relax, I promise your kitchen will be in one piece when you get back."

Brendon smiled. "It had better be or heads will roll." He said teasingly.

“After the renovations we have planned are done, you'll love it. Green walls, purple flooring, orange curtains on the windows. Not to mention the black velvet paintings we plan to put up on the walls. With a little black light the pictures will glow." Tris teased back, amazed at his own daring. He still wasn't sure how Brendon actually felt about him and worried that Bren would get mad.

Bren pretended to look horrified. He laughed though. "Well, we can then cater to a male population with a different kind of goods." He winked at Tris.

Spence snickered at Brendon's comment.

Tris blushed slightly and smiled. He remembered good days with Brendon when they would laugh and joke like this without any self-consciousness. "When does your vacation start again?" He asked.

Bren said, "Tomorrow."

"Well, the work day is over and it's time to relax. Do you want to join us for dinner?" Arnie asked. "We're splitting a pitcher of beer, we can always ask for another glass." He grinned up at Brendon.

Brendon looked at the four men and then said, "If I'm not intrudin', I'd like to. I'll chip in for the beer."

"Sounds great!" Arnie said enthusiastically. "Have a seat." He gestured to the only available seat which was next to Tristan.

Tristan tried not to blush. His heart began to race and he breathed deeply to calm himself.

Brendon hesitated slightly, but then took the seat and when the waiter came by ordered another glass and another pitcher of beer and asked the waiter to bring him the plate of ribs he had ordered at the bar.

"I can't wait for dinner to arrive," Arnie said, "I'm starving."

Brendon asked, "Where's Warren?"

"He went home," Tris offered, "He said he was worn out and just wanted to sleep."

It wasn't long before the waiter brought their pitcher of beer. "Your food will be right up, sir.

Brendon nodded. "Yes, thank you." He began to pour for everyone. He glanced at Tris.

“I'll just have soda," Tris said with a smile. "Thanks though."  He knew he shouldn't be drinking anything alcoholic while he was on his meds. Heath would kill him if he did and then found out about it.

Brendon nodded and gave Tris a smile of approval. "Good choice."

Tris lost his battle with his blush at Brendon's response, and felt his face getting hot. "Jeez it's hot in here, isn't it?" he asked the others.

Spence waved a napkin in front of his own face. "I say, it is rather hot in here." he agreed, blotting his dry face with the napkin for emphasis.   

Brendon, a concerned expression on his handsome features, said, "I'm comfortable, are you two coming down with something? Do I need to take you both over to Heath?"

Vic hid a grin.

"No, I just have to hit the men's room, I'll be right back," Tristan said, blushing more deeply.  He turned as quickly as he could so that the other men couldn't see and strode quickly toward the men's room where he doused his face in cold water.

Brendon excused himself and strode after Tristan. "Are you all right Tris?" He asked with real concern.

"Yeah, yeah, I'm fine." Tris said, wiping his face. "I just had a hot flash or something, I guess." He laughed to hide his embarrassment. "Old age, you know."  He joked.  He felt his heart thud at Brendon's close proximity and was privately pleased that Brendon had come to make sure he was alright.

Brendon wanted to reach out and touch Tristan. He had begun to move his hand toward the young man's shoulder, but had stopped. "You're younger than me, so I doubt that has anything to do with it." He replied instead, a barely perceptible smile on his lips.

Tristan wanted to tell Brendon how he felt about him but didn't dare. He'd thrown Brendon's love out the window when he'd left, and he was sure that the other man hadn't forgiven him for the pain he'd caused.

"Guess I'm just tired." Tris covered his tracks, "I'm going to have dinner and head home myself, get some sleep. Let's get going, eh?" Tris suggested. "The food should be arriving at any time."

Brendon nodded. "Yes, good idea."  Brendon felt a warming sensation in the area of his heart as he watched Tristan. He tried to squelch it, but it refused to be denied, instead growing stronger.

They returned to the table moments later, just in time. The waiter had delivered their dinners and everyone was waiting for them.

They all ate, chatting amiably between mouthfuls of food. Eventually Tris excused himself and headed home. He couldn't help but wish that Brendon would follow him there as well, but he didn't expect it would ever happen.

He walked into his quiet, empty bungalow and sat on the couch, thinking of Brendon and wishing he had done things differently. He fell asleep on the couch with the TV playing softly in the background.

Brendon left the lodge a bit at odds with himself. He had no idea what he was going to do with the two weeks off that James and Jeff were forcing him to take. He walked into his lonely bungalow. He could see Tris there in his mind’s eye, not the Tris of old, but the Tris of present. He had no idea if the younger man still had any feelings for him and could no longer deny he still had feelings for him despite everything that had passed. He sighed as he took off his shoes and sat in front of his TV and fell asleep.


The next morning, Brendon woke up late and sighed in frustration. He made an appointment with Heath, who agreed with James and Jeff.  After leaving Heath's office he didn't know what to do with himself. He decided to go down to the lake and walk a bit. Maybe it would get rid of his pent up energy and the thoughts of Tristan that had been invading his sleep as well as his waking moments. Ever since he had learned of Tristan Kane coming to work as his assistant at the bakery here at TLR he'd been a bear, not knowing just when he'd have to protect himself and his heart. He shrugged and picked up a towel and put jeans and a tee shirt over his bathing trunks and headed down to the beach after applying sun block liberally to his fair skin.

Tristan had been enjoying his day off at the lake, getting there early so that he could sun himself before the bulk of the guests arrived. He lay on his stomach on his blanket, a cooler by his head and his earbuds in, listening to music, when he saw Brendon approaching. His heart felt as though it were going to stop and he unconsciously held his breath. He worried that Brendon was going to see him and perhaps yell at him, or worse, see him and ignore him. He thought he'd prefer being yelled at than ignored.

Brendon began to walk along the lake when he saw a familiar figure on a blanket. He said politely, "Hello Tristan. Nice day to be at the lake."

Tristan, somewhat at a loss, answered lamely, "Yes, it's a beautiful day."

Taking a chance, Tristan asked, "Ummm, do you want to... um... sit with me?" He asked hesitantly, afraid that Brendon would decline with a flat out 'No!'

Brendon took a moment to think, and then said, "Sure." He sat on a corner of the blanket.

Tris felt his heart leap and it was all he could do to keep from grinning ear to ear. While Brendon wasn't sitting close, at least he was sitting nearby, and that meant a lot to him.  He rolled over and sat so that he could look at Brendon while they talked.

" you come here often?" Bren asked quietly.

"Every day I have off, and if the weather is nice I'll come out here and watch the sun rise and set. I love being near the water." Tris answered, trying to maintain his composure.  He looked at Brendon for a moment to gauge the other man's state of mind, licked his lips and gazed back out over the water which was rippling slightly in a light breeze.

Brendon said, "You always did like being on the water and in the sun."

"They make me feel energized." Tris replied with a little smile. "Remember the times we'd go to the beach, the time we went parasailing? I still remember the first time you went waterskiing. You'd never done it before but you were a natural. It was impressive to watch."

Brendon laughed. "I was scared to death both times, but it was fun and we ended up going water skiing especially whenever the weather would permit...wonder if they'd allow that here?" He mused out loud.

"That's the first thing I asked Eric when I moved here. He said no powerboats or waterskiing on the lake... safety and insurance reasons." He replied regretfully. "But..." He stopped himself. He'd been about to suggest that he and Brendon take a trip to the ocean or one of the larger lakes and hire a speedboat. It was too early, or perhaps too late, to suggest anything like that, he thought with a heavy heart.

Brendon shook his head. "Too bad, but I understand his reasoning. It would be fun to do again though." He said a bit wistfully.  "I've been so busy working, I guess I never really took the time to know what was or wasn't allowed on the lake or what else the resort has to offer."

There was a short, uncomfortable silence between them, and then Brendon said, "It was good talking to you Tristan." He began to get up, gathering his towel as he did.

"No! Brendon don't go! I mean..." Tristan stammered, blushing deeply. "Please. I've been wanting to talk to you. To explain. Please don't go." he begged.  He wouldn't have been surprised if Brendon just walked away, but he hoped against hope that he would stay and at least hear him out, if nothing else.

Brendon stopped getting up, a bit startled. He anxiously looked at Tristan, not sure if he was going to flip into one of his extremes, but remembered what Heath said and cautiously sank back onto the blanket. "Okay." He said quietly.

Tristan took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "The words 'I'm sorry.' don't even begin to express how badly I feel about how I treated you, Bren." he said softly. "It's no excuse, but I was sick. I didn't know it, not until later, after I... after I walked out on you. I know I put you through hell and..." he sighed in frustration. "I just wanted you to understand. I never... I never stopped thinking about you. Or caring about you. I..." he trailed off, unsure of what to say next and hoping that he hadn't scared Brendon off again.  His tanned face was turning a deep red that had nothing to do with the sun.

Brendon listened and was quiet for quite some time. "Tris...I cared about you...I loved you...I wanted to help you, even after you gave me a split lip and a clip on the temple that stunned me...I was devastated when you walked out on me...all I did was swat you. It worked. At least you stopped swinging at me that night."

"I tried to explain things, but you were in such a state that night you wouldn't listen." Bren said, a lump in his throat and his voice hoarse with emotion.  Brendon looked at Tristan. 

Tristan blushed again as he felt tears threatening. "I know." he said in a somewhat choked voice. "I know, you were never anything but good to me. I didn't deserve you. I couldn't understand how you put up with me for as long as you did. But I was manic and everything seemed... it was all blown out of proportion. I... I really had no control over it at the time, but I do now. With the meds I take, and the years of counseling, I've learned to control it. I'm not who I was, but it would take a whole day to explain it."

Bren looked at Tristan. "You said you had Bipolar Disorder? Well...we have a whole day don't we? Maybe you can give me the condensed version. I've heard of it and all I know is a person has extreme mood swings."

"Well, remember all the times I was up at four in the morning cleaning, the times when I couldn't keep one thought in my head, the extreme irritability? Those were signs of my manic phases.  And the times when I would cry and not be able to tell you what was wrong? The times I couldn't eat or sleep, or the times when all I wanted to do was sleep? Those were all the depressive signs."

Brendon said quietly, "So there was a reason for all that?"

"Yeah," Tristan breathed. "It was all my fault. I didn't know, please believe me. If I'd known I'd have gotten help a long time ago... and we'd still be together."  Tristan bit his lip hard, not believing that he'd just said what he did. He looked away from Brendon, embarrassed and afraid that the other man would have heard enough and leave.

Brendon said softly, "I'm sorry I didn't know. Also that you didn't know. I'm not sure how much longer we would have been able to stay together if nothing changed though. I was getting a bit concerned about being assaulted."

"Again, the words I'm sorry aren't adequate." Tristan replied quietly. "I was afraid. Aggressive behavior is one of the aspects of the mania. I've learned a lot about myself in the past ten years."

After a short silence, Tristan said, "Bren?"

"Yes Tristan?"

"Do you think that we can... put the past behind us? Start fresh? I mean, as friends," he said quickly, although he hoped for more. "Do you think you can ever forgive me for what I put you through?  Is there any chance that you'll ever trust me again?"

Tristan drew his legs up toward his chest and wrapped his arms around them. He was afraid of what Brendon's answer might be and he braced himself for the worst.

Brendon looked out over the water and unconsciously placed a hand on Tristan's shoulder. He was quiet for a very long time then said, "I won't lie Tristan, it will take time for me to trust that you won't hurt me."

It was all Tris could do not to lean into the comfort that that hand offered, to wrap his arms around Brendon as he once had and feel loved and protected once again. But he knew it was too soon for any of that, if it ever happened at all. He knew Brendon was right. Trust would have to be earned, and Tristan vowed he'd find some way to earn it back.

Tristan swallowed hard. "I know, Bren. And I understand."

Brendon said, "I still think about and care about you Tris. Let's take things slow and see where it leads us."

Tristan thought his heart was going to explode for joy, but he reigned in his feelings. He knew that this little talk wasn't going to be a quick fix, and he was grateful to Brendon for being willing to listen at all.  "Do... do you want to go for a walk, and... catch up a bit?" Tristan asked.

Brendon nodded. "Sure, why not? I have thirteen more days of vacation."

Tristan smiled, trying to hide his relief. He stood up and helped Brendon up from the blanket, and the two of them walked companionably along the beach, enjoying the sights and sounds of the lake.

Brendon said, "This is nice. I didn't realize how nice it was down here."

"It's beautiful." Tristan agreed. "It might be a silly question, but have you been to the cove yet? Mutt told me about it and I've been dying to get there, but I didn't want to go alone, just in case I got lost.  From what I understand it's where the residents gather when they're off duty. There might be other people there today."

Brendon shook his head. "I've never been. I may have heard the others talking about it once in a while."

"Feel like taking a raft out?" Tristan suggested.  "Good way to burn off excess energy, especially when you're used to working 24/7." He joked.

 Brendon flashed him his first real genuine smile and said, "Now that sounds like fun."

"Let me go back and get my cooler. I have sodas and water, and some fruit in there. We can have a picnic on the lake." He grinned.

Brendon said, "All right."

Tristan gave him the thumbs up and ran back the way they'd come.

"Don't forget the blanket!" He called with a smile.

 Minutes later Tristan came back, privately pleased that Brendon hadn't ditched him as he'd half expected the man to do.  They walked companionably down the beach toward the cove and looked around.  It was quite beautiful, and only a few other residents were there at that time.  They all waved and smiled at Tris and Brendon before turning back to their own activities.

Brendon went to the cabin and found a two man raft, two paddles and two life vests.  He knew that he and Tristan were both expert swimmers but he also knew the rules of safety could never be ignored.

Tristan smiled and threw his vest into the back of the raft where it would have stayed until Brendon gave him a look.  "We're not going anywhere until you put that on, Tris." He said quietly.

Tristan frowned a little at Brendon's tone but then gave in and reluctantly put on the life vest.

"I hate the way these things feel around my neck." He complained.

Brendon said, "I hate plucking dead bodies out of the water more."

Tristan nearly laughed but knew that that wasn't going to make Brendon comfortable around him. He adjusted the vest as best he could and began to wade into the water to get into the raft.  

"Hang on a sec, I need to take my watch off, it's not waterproof." he said, quickly going back to their blanket to put his watch in his bag before going back to Brendon and the raft.

Brendon stopped Tristan and fixed his life vest properly, then walked with him pushing the raft out until they were in deep enough water. Then clambered in and reached out to grab Tristan's wrist and pull him onto the raft. He saw the nasty looking scars on the inside of Tristan's wrist, and his amber eyes widened.

Tristan flushed and tried to pull his hand away, but Brendon had a firm grip on him.

Brendon said quietly, "Don't Tristan." He got them settled in the raft and allowed it to drift out onto the lake, keeping the cove in sight. "Tell me about the scars?" He asked.

Tris remembered what Heath had told him, about being completely honest. He could feel his face getting hot again.

Brendon said quietly, "You don't have to tell me if you don't want to, I don't mean to get so personal." He told Tristan. "I'm sure it's really none of my business."

"After I left you..." he began, looking for the right words, "I was at an all-time low. I had just lost you; I had no money, nowhere to call home. I tried to... hurt myself." Tristan said quietly. "If it hadn't been for a stranger on the street, stopping me..."

Brendon's chest hurt, thinking about the pain that Tristan must have been in to consider taking such a drastic measure. He closed his eyes, trying to block the image from his mind.

Worried that Brendon would think he was blaming him, Tristan said quickly, "It wasn't your fault, Bren. You had nothing to do with what I did. It was the mania."

Brendon asked, "Why didn't you come back? I never wanted you to leave in the first place, no matter what." Brendon asked softly, rubbing the scar on Tristan's wrist gently.

Tristan allowed the touch. He'd never allowed anyone to see, let alone touch the scar that would always be with him.

"I thought you hated me. I thought you'd never want to see me again after... how I treated you, the things I did. The things I said. I didn't see how you could ever love me again."

Brendon said, "I never hated you Tristan, I always loved you. If I didn't, the first time you hit me and gave me the split lip you'd have been history." The older man told the younger one softly.

"But I'd put you through so much. I knew you weren't happy, and I knew it was because of me. I couldn't do that to you. I just felt so... hopeless, helpless, and worthless. I didn't see what I had right in front of me until I lost it. And the guilt... knowing what I'd done to you... it was just too much. But I never stopped loving you, even after I ran out the way I did."

Tristan put a hand over his mouth. 'Way to wreck it, Tris,' he said to himself. Now for sure Brendon would beach the raft and run.

Brendon looked into Tristan's eyes and said, "I have been very hurt. I said I've always loved you Tristan...I've never stopped loving you. I was confused and hurt. I didn't know what I had done wrong...I thought it was because I swatted you that was ...well a reaction. It at least got you to stop hitting me." He said softly.

"That swat was a little wake up call for me." Tristan admitted, "But I was so far gone that night I couldn't admit it. I... it felt right but... my mind was racing... I couldn't think of the words I needed to tell you what was going through my head."

Brendon looked very sad. "I'm sorry I didn't know that you were sick...I should have known...I could have gotten you help...I'm sorry...I failed you Tristan." Brendon said very quietly.

"No, Bren! That's what I'm trying to tell you. Neither of us knew what was wrong. It wasn't your fault. You asked me if something was going on and I just kept telling you I was fine. I couldn't admit that I could be anything other than perfect. It never occurred to me that all of my problems, with you, at work, were because of my disorder."

Brendon sighed. "I suppose you're right, but I can't help feeling a bit responsible in light of what I've learned from Heath and now you. I was hurt and...While I hate to admit it, a bit frightened of your violent outbursts. The clip to my temple sent me for a loop. I was stunned and...Well swatting was the only thing that came to my befuddled mind." He told Tristan quietly. "When you came here to work it scared me because I had no idea what things were going to be like and I didn't want to go through all that again." He told Tristan honestly. "I was being a jerk to you because I didn't want the old feelings to rise up again and they were doing just that."

"You... you mean, you still... might... have feelings for me?"

Brendon studied Tristan for a moment and then nodded. "Yes." He said simply.

"I care about you too, Bren. I always have." He admitted quietly. "I know it's going to take time for you to learn to trust me, but maybe... maybe we can go back to being like we used to? Better than we used to. Friends?"

Brendon considered things, examining his own heart. He stayed quiet for some time.

"I'm sorry; I should have kept my mouth shut. We were doing so well I guess... I guess I just...screwed up again. I'm sorry." He said despondently.  "Why don't we just bring the raft back? I'll see you at work in a couple of weeks. We can just be... boss and worker. I can live with that."

Brendon arched an eyebrow. "Don't be so quick to toss things away Tristan. I just needed some time to think. I'm trying to wrap my thoughts around all this and I believe we can still make a go of things, but we need to start fresh. The past is the past. I'll need a bit of a time to trust again, I won't lie to you, each time I see an old behavior from the past for a while I'll be wary, but I'm thinking that perhaps a discipline partnership may also be helpful to both of us. We can take classes here together. They offer seminars about this and we can decide after we go through them if it's right for us and how to proceed." Brendon said thoughtfully, placing a hand on the other man's lower arm.

"You mean, you'd be willing to take me back... eventually?"  Tristan asked, hoping he hadn't read too much into Brendon's words.

Brendon asked, "Eventually? I have the next two weeks with nothing to do and I'm your boss, so if you're willing we can spend the time together and learn what we need to continue on... if you're willing to take another chance on the Demon Baker."

Tristan laughed partly from relief and partly from Brendon referring to himself as the Demon Baker. In a bakery that small, it was no surprise that Brendon had heard himself referred to that way, and could joke about it.

He smiled and nodded. "Yes, I'd love to take some of the classes with you. I think... I think we could make it work. Thank you." Tristan said softly.

Brendon said, "I believe you may be right, at least we owe it to each other to give it a whirl. I do want you to understand though, if I'm wary, to not take it personally and I'll try to talk to you about why I feel that way if I'm aware of it, if I'm not then instead of you giving up I want you to tell me you notice it and we'll talk about it together, deal?"

"Deal." Tristan replied, his heart feeling as though it were going to burst out of his chest at any moment. He held out his hand to shake Brendon’s.

Brendon took Tristan's and shook it heartily. "Now Tris...let's get to that stuff you have in the cooler." He grinned.


Increased energy, activity, restlessness
Euphoric mood
Extreme irritability
Poor concentration
Racing thoughts, fast talking, jumping between ideas
Heightened sense of self-importance
Spending sprees
Increased sexual behavior
Abuse of drugs, such as cocaine, alcohol and sleeping medications
Provocative, intrusive or aggressive behavior
Denial that anything is wrong
Depressive Episode Signs:

Sad, anxious or empty-feeling mood
Feelings of hopelessness and pessimism
Feelings of guilt, worthlessness and helplessness
Loss of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed, including sex
Decreased energy, fatigue
Difficulty concentrating, remembering or making decisions
Restlessness and irritability
Sleeplessness or sleeping too much
Change in appetite, unintended weight loss or gain
Bodily symptoms not caused by physical illness or injury
Thoughts of death or suicide

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