Tyler Navarro was a simple young man. He only bought what he thought it was essential for him and carried around what he would need. No wonder he was able to fit all he owned into his Jeep. He sighed in relief as loaded the last of the boxes, wiping his forehead and allowing himself a smile of satisfaction on a job well done.
“Are you really sure you have everything?” A female asked as she inspected the boxes with her eyes.
“Yes, I’m sure, prima,” She told his overzealous cousin. “And I know you probably over checked more times than I did.”
“Well, someone needs to make sure you are safe.” She said teasingly.
“Hey,” He shoved her with his should playfully. “I am not an airhead, okay?”
She gave him a look.
He rolled his eyes. “Okay, not a complete airhead. Happy now?”
“No!” She said even with a smile. “Tyler, I know that Abuela's death really messed up everyone…”
Tyler immediately lost his smile.
“That doesn’t mean you have to drop out of university,” She insisted as she had already done many times before. “Also, it doesn’t mean you need to leave the country.”
He sighed. “I already explained this to you and to everyone else. I’m not dropping out! I’m just taking some time off. And hey, what’s wrong with wanting to know Canada?”
She shook her head. Her cousin could be so difficult in so many different ways. “Okay, I get it. But, you know you don’t have to pretend this just a road trip to me, right?”
He offered her a small smile. “As if I ever could hide something from you.”
“Look, I know you want to meet your father,” She said. “And that the journals you found in the stuff Abuela used to hide gave you the name of a place where you might find him. It’s just that, don’t you think you are just throwing everything up in the air to meet a man you never knew?”
“Hey,” He put a hand on her shoulder. “Believe it or not, I thought about all that. When my mom was alive, she hardly ever talked about him. I know the deal between her and him. I’m okay with me being an accident.”
“Tyler!” She protested.
“I’m being serious!” He said with a smile. “I’m not expecting anything from him. I just really want to get a chance to meet him.”
His cousin sighed. She knew she couldn’t change his mind. “And you are okay with, you know…”
Tyler waited for her to continue but she didn’t say anything after trailing off. He playfully patted her head.
“It’s okay that he’s probably gay,” He said. “After all, this place, Arcadia of Angels? Everyone knows it is basically queer paradise on Earth. If he lives there, big chances he’s into dudes. Well, he can be bi. He did sleep with my mom.”
His cousin laughed. “Well, I’m sure you will enjoy a queer town even if you don’t get to meet your father.”
He laughed, blushing a little. “Make the best of the situation, right?”
“Right,” She said and hugged him. “Just be careful on the drive, okay? It’s a pretty big distance from California to there.”
“Don’t worry, I will,” He squeezed her. “I will call you every time I stop to put gas, okay?”
“You better!” She laughed even if she had water in her eyes.
“Hey, hey!” He shook a finger at her. “No crying! Not fair! You know I am crier too!”
“I’m going to miss you so much, Dino boy!” She hugged him again.
“Me too,” He said twirling her around in the hug. “Me too.”
He had decided to stop in a gas station near the border between Oregon and Washington to fill up. His family would probably all come after him if didn’t take care of himself properly. Fortunately, near the gas station, there was a nice-looking motel and a very inviting diner. He could make a stop here before continuing his drive. Still a long way until British Columbia.
He filled up his Jeep and parked at the motel’s parking lot. The staying price was good. Not too cheap but nothing he couldn’t afford and the girl at the front desk was friendly. Always a good sign. He loved interacting with friendly people. He left some clothes in the room he would be staying before deciding to check the diner. Lucy, the receptionist said the food was actually good. He had stumbled into a good location not many come to, apparently. Lucky him. He mentally thanked his Abuela. She definitely was looking out for him.
He walked into the diner. True, there weren’t many people there so it wasn’t a very common pit-stop for drivers. He had only seen one truck there. He chose a booth near a window and soon enough, a waitress with a friendly smile came to take his order.
“Hi there,” She said genuinely with a cheerful tone. “Name’s Angie. How can I help you?”
“Hi, Angie! I’m Tyler!” He said giving her his best smile. “I’m just passing by so I don’t know your diner. Would you mind telling me what’s good here?”
She smiled back. “That I can. Any preferences? Are you a vegetarian?”
“God, no!” He laughed but quickly recomposed himself. “Not that there is anything wrong with being one!”
She laughed a little. “Relax. It’s policy to ask. I’m a meat lover myself. So I would probably tell you to get our deluxe burger. Fries on the side and any sauce you want on the house.”
She gave him a menu and pointed at the option she just mentioned. Tyler nodded approvingly. “I’ll definitely have that one.”
“One deluxe burger then,” She scribbled in her notepad. “And to drink?”
“Do you guys have any juices?” He asked. He loved juices even if some people would probably order a soda to go with a hamburger.
“We do,” She nodded. “But not that many options, I’m afraid.”
“A cold lemonade?” He asked hopefully.
“One coming right up!” She said, scribbling again and offering him another smile. “Anything else I can get you.”
“That will be all for now, Angie, thanks,” He smiled back. “Do you mind me staying with the menu? I kinda wanna check the dessert part.”
She snickered. “Not at all. I’ll be right back with your drink.”
“Thanks!” He said as she walked away. He glimpsed at the dessert section of the menu. Many pies and milkshakes but not many cakes. He loved cakes. Well, once he got to Arcadia of Angels, he would definitely buy more kitchenware to put his cooking skills to work. He hoped he would be able to find a good and cheap place to buy fruits there.
He put the menu down for now and looked around the diner. It was pretty well-kept. A small staff by what he could tell. Probably didn’t need that many people working there since it wasn’t common for many people to come here, which Tyler thought it was a shame, for both the diner and motel. The people here seemed quite nice. His eyes kept traveling until they stopped on a boy sitting in front of the main counter.
Okay, 'boy' really wasn’t a word to describe him. He was very well built. He looked young, probably bit younger than Tyler but those arms… wow. His skin was a few tones lighter than Tyler’s own, which made him wonder more about him. Tyler couldn’t help to notice that he seemed to be wearing clothes that looked like he slept with. Also, his face, while quite pretty to look at, seemed tired, with clear dark circles under his eyes. He sat alone drinking what was probably coffee.
“Here you go!” Angie set a tall glass of icy lemonade in front of Tyler, making him blink and take his eyes of the young man. “Your hamburger will be coming right along.”
“Thanks, Angie,” He took a sip of the lemonade and nodded in approval. “Tastes great!”
Angie seemed happy with his response. She blinked as she noticed Tyler was sneaking a look at someone behind her. She turned her head and immediately knew who he was looking at. She smiled to herself. Who wouldn’t notice him?
“That’s Brody.” She said point at him with her thumb.
“Huh, what?” Tyler asked caught off-guard.
“The guy sitting alone?” She glimpsed at him discreetly. “His name is Brody.”
“Oh, I wasn’t, I mean, he’s,” Tyler mumbled making Angie laugh.
“Relax,” She told him. “Who can blame you? He’s a hunk.”
Tyler blushed but said nothing.
“Poor guy though.” She said with a sigh.
“Why?” Tyler asked curiously.
“He’s been hanging out here for a couple of days,” Angie explained. “He lost his money to some hooligans. He’s trying to find a way to make some money but he hasn’t been having much luck, unfortunately. He’s heading somewhere and he also hasn’t been able to hitch a ride to wherever he’s going. We help him with what he can but we’re not hiring anyone now, so.”
Tyler nodded. Poor guy indeed. He wondered where the young man was heading.
The noise of a ring called Angie back and she waved saying she was going to bring his food. Tyler smiled and couldn’t help to look at this Brody again. He had finished drinking and talked to an older woman behind the counter. He seemed a bit ashamed as they spoke but the older woman just shook her head smiling. He seemingly thanked her and left the diner. Tyler could still see him from the window.
“Here you go, one deluxe burger,” Angie said as she settled a big plate in front of him. “And fries with some of our best sauces since you didn’t say which one you wanted.”
“Oh!” Everything looked really good. “Thank you, Angie!”
“Don’t sweat it,” She motioned with her hand. “If you need anything else, just call me.”
He thanked her again and she went back to work. Tyler looked outside again but Brody wasn’t there anymore. He wondered if the young man was in too much trouble. Did he have a place to stay or had he eaten lately with no money? That made Tyler sigh. And he could hear his cousin in his head saying he always worried too much about other people’s problems.
Tyler had finished a quite delicious meal, paid for it and then went to his motel room. He kept thinking about Brody, somewhat worried about the young man. Sure, he didn’t know him but he was probably going through a hard time. He went to take a shower and changed into more comfortable clothes so he could take a nap from all the driving. Even as he put his head on the pillow, he kept thinking about Brody.
After paying Lucy and thanking her for the room, Tyler left, ready to go back to the road. He thought about grabbing some breakfast at the diner when he saw Brody, still with the same clothes in a phone booth. He couldn’t hear him, of course, but he seemed very frustrated as he spoke on the phone. Finally, he slammed it back and opened the booth. It was apparent in his face that he was very worried. Tyler hummed, thinking over and over before deciding to approach.
“Hum,” He called, raising a hand and smiling. “I’m Tyler. Are you okay?”
Brody looked at him strangely, probably suspicious at the strange man. “I’m fine.”
“You are Brody, right?” Tyler said before the other man began walking away. “Angie from the diner told me about you.”
“Did she now?” He asked. He still seemed suspicious. “What did she tell you?”
“That bad luck struck you hard,” Tyler offered a smile. “And that you could use some help.”
Brody looked at Tyler from feet to head, crossing his arms. “I am not a sex worker, so I’m not going to sleep with you for money.”
Tyler couldn’t help but laugh. “I’m sorry, I promise I’m not laughing at you. It’s just that… you’re quite forward, man.”
Brody shrugged. “Men and women tried to offer that to help me.”
“Well,” Tyler raised both his hands. “I’m not looking for that.”
“What are you looking for then?” Brody asked.
“To see if you need help, or actually, if you would accept my help.” Tyler said honestly.
“Why would help me?” Brody asked confused. “You don’t know me. I don’t know you. We’re complete strangers. Why would you want to help a stranger?”
Tyler shrugged. “I just like to help people. My family usually tells me it’s a flaw rather than a good thing.”
“People can definitely take advantage of you,” He said uncrossing his arm. “What’s the catch?”
“No catch,” Tyler said. “Angie told me you wanted a ride. I can offer you one if you are going north. There’s where I’m heading.”
“Out of Oregon?” He asked with interest.
“Yup,” Tyler nodded. “Then I’m going to cross all Washington State to get to Canada.”
“You’re going to Canada?” His voice indicated that somehow he didn’t believe Tyler.
“Yeah, I am,” Tyler said firmly. “British Columbia, actually. I’m going to, hum, a town there.”
Brody blinked several times before whispering to himself but Tyler didn’t hear it.
“What’s that?” Tyler asked leaning his head on his direction.
“I just can’t believe it!” Brody had the hint of a smile. “You are really going to British Columbia?”
“Yeah… why?” Tyler tilted his head.
“Believe it or not, it’s where I was heading before I got robbed.” Brody confessed.
“Really?” Tyler perked up. “Well, then I guess it’s your lucky day!”
Brody chuckled, shaking his head. “No, I can’t believe it. Are you really not tricking me?”
“Cross my heart and hope to die,” Tyler said as he made the sign on his chest. “Plus, it would be nice to have company. I’m driving alone.”
Brody still didn’t seem convinced but Tyler could tell he was really tempted with the offer.
“Look,” Tyler took a few steps closer to him. “Let’s do it like this. We have breakfast, we talk, I tell stuff about me and if you feel safe, we head out. Deal?”
Brody lowered his shoulders a little. “I don’t have money for breakfast and I don’t want to keep freeloading in the diner. They have been so nice to me.”
“Okay,” Tyler nodded, understanding. “If I offer to pay you for breakfast, are you still going to think I’m a predator?”
That made Brody laugh. “A very good one, I would have to say.”
“No predator here, I swear.” Tyler said with a smile. “Even though… that’s probably what I predator would say, right?”
Brody laughed again. “Right. Most definitely.”
“Well, it’s not like you couldn’t defend yourself from me, I mean,” He motioned to Brody who raised an eyebrow in amusement. “I mean, uh, you seem pretty fit. You could probably kick my ass.”
Brody smiled in amusement. “You look pretty fit too.”
Tyler couldn’t help but blush. “Huh, thanks. But… we are not going to fight, right?”
Brody chuckled. “I would rather eat breakfast, to be honest.”
Tyler blinked. “So… that’s that mean you accept my offer.”
“Well, you are paying, right?” Brody smirked. “I’ll get a meal out of it, at least.”
Tyler smiled and the two walked into the diner together.
They sat in another both, a bit farther from the entrance. Tyler could tell Brody was still a bit uncomfortable. Maybe talking more would help.
“I already introduced myself.” Tyler said to break the ice.
“Right. Tyler,” Brody nodded. “You already know my name.”
“Brody,” Tyler said with a small smile. “So, what’s that you’re going to ask me to make sure I’m not a predator?”
“Well, let’s see,” Brody jokingly tapped his chin with his fingers. “What kind of car do you drive?”
Tyler blinked at the question. “A Jeep. Why do you ask? Do predators have a specific type of car they drive?”
“One with blacked out windows comes to mind,” Brody said. “So that red Jeep in front of the motel is yours?”
“Yep,” Tyler nodded. “That’s my baby.”
“It would be pretty easy for someone to see me passed out there.” Brody noted.
Tyler laughed. “I suppose. A Jeep is not the best kind of car to kidnap someone. Oh! Not that I want to kidnap you!”
Brody smiled. “As you said. But I still need more convincing.”
“That’s fair, I guess.” Tyler agreed. Angie arriving at their table interrupted their conversation, however.
“Hey, Tyler!” She said with her usual cheery mood and turned to Brody, offering him a smile. “Hey, Brody. Looks like you made a friend.”
“I’m still trying to figure out if I can call him that,” He said to her. “He is going to buy me breakfast though.”
Angie chuckled. “Tyler is a good guy, Brody. Don’t be mean to him or take advantage of him.”
“Thanks for the vote of confidence, Angie.” Tyler smiled as he accepted a menu.
“I’m not mean,” Brody mumbled as he too accepted a menu. “And I can’t take advantage of someone I don’t know.”
“Sure, sure,” She said shaking her head at Brody. She took out her notepad. “Too early for hamburgers but would you guys like some coffee?”
“Sure!” Tyler said. “Strongest black one you have. No sugar.”
“Impressive,” She winked at him and turned to Brody. “What about you Mr. Romero?”
“Coffee too but with cream and sugar, please.” He said.
“Noted,” She scribbled on the notepad. “I’ll be right back with a pot for you guys. Oh, and I suggest the waffles. We make the best.”
She walked away and both boys watched her go.
“Are their waffles really good? I like waffles.” Tyler looked through the breakfast menu.
“She has a thing for you.” Brody said as he played with a napkin.
“What?” Tyler said in disbelief. “No, she does not! She’s just friendly.”
“She is friendly,” Brody agreed. “But she was totally checking you out."
“No, she wasn’t!” Tyler shook his head. “Now, stop being mean and choose something for you to eat.”
Brody laughed as he looked through the menu. “Not your type?”
“What?” Tyler asked looking up from the menu.
“Angie,” Brody’s eyes were on the menu. “She’s not your type?”
“Will you quit it with that?” Tyler huffed and went back to the menu. A few minutes passed and they were both silent. “She isn’t though.”
That made Brody look up. “Not into blondes?”
“I have no problems with blondes.” Tyler said still looking at the menu.
Brody squinted at him. “Then why isn’t she your type?”
“She just… isn’t,” Tyler said still not looking at Brody. “Did you pick anything yet?”
“Their waffles are good,” Brody commented but he was still squinting at Tyler. “Come on, if I’m supposed to trust you, tell me why she isn’t your type?”
“God, how old are you?” Tyler finally put down the menu. “And shush now. She’s coming.”
“Here you go, guys!” She put large mugs in front of both of them. “So, decided on anything yet.”
“I’m going to have the ‘A Morning to Remember’ special,” Tyler indicated the option on the menu with his finger smiling broadly. It was the option with almost every single kind of breakfast food in one. “What about you, Brody?”
“I, hum,” Brody blinked. He really hadn’t picked anything and he didn’t know if he should pick something cheap since Tyler was buying. “Maybe…”
“Make that two, Angie!” Tyler told her before Brody could say anything.
Angie smiled. “That’s so sweet of you, Tyler.”
“You don’t need to do that.” Brody said seriously.
Angie rolled her eyes. “Don’t be mean, Brody. I’m going to tell the chef to make your orders.”
“Thanks, Angie!” Tyler said and looked at Brody. “What?”
“You didn’t need to buy me the most expensive option on the menu.” He said, leaning back into the cushion.
Tyler shrugged. “You need food. It’s going to be a long trip.”
Brody ignored the reason behind why Tyler really wanted to give him so much food. “I’m nineteen.”
“Sorry?” Tyler asked as blew the steam off his coffee.
“You asked me how old I am,” Brody said as he picked his mug. “I’m nineteen. What about you?”
“I’m twenty-three,” Tyler said as he sipped his coffee. Tasted great and strong, just like how he liked it. “Are from here, I mean, from Oregon?”
“I’m from Nevada, actually,” He said. “And you, you don’t sound Canadian.”
Tyler laughed. “Well, actually I’m kinda half Canadian since my father was born there. But I’m not from there, I’m from California.”
Brody nodded. “Why are you going to Canada? Very different from sunny Cali, don’t you think?”
“I can ask you the same question since you are from the desert.” Tyler laughed.
Brody smirked. “Fine. Well, I’m actually hoping I can find my father.”
Tyler almost spilled his coffee. He remained silent.
“And you?” Brody asked not noticing Tyler’s reaction. “What’s your reason?”
Tyler laughed nervously. “Now you are really going to think I’m a stalker.”
“Why is that?” Brody tilted his head.
“I’m going to Canada to find my father, too.” Tyler said. He could see Brody’s eyes shifted.
“You are joking.” Brody said. It seemed that any minute he was going to bolt from the booth.
“No, no!” Tyler shook his head and hands. “I know it sounds… crazy, but I have proof!”
Brody remained in alert as Tyler went through a backpack and pulled out what looked like a journal.
“It’s my father’s,” Tyler said smiling fondly at it. “My Abuela hid it from me. She passed away a few months ago and, while we were going through her stuff, I found this. From what I got, my dad and my mom didn’t really plan for me and my dad’s wish was to live his life in Arcadia of Angels, that’s a-”
“City in British Columbia where all the LGBTQIA+ community would love to live in it.” Brody added. He couldn’t believe what he was hearing.
“Hum,” Tyler put the journal back in his backpack. “How-how do you know that?”
“That’s actually where I’m hoping to find my dad too.” Brody said looking at the table.
Tyler blinked several times. “Oh… wow. I mean… both of us?”
“If I believed in destiny…” Brody whispered. “I guess I can take a guess why Angie isn’t your type?”
Tyler blushed furiously. “Wha-what do you mean? Just because I’m going to Arcadia of Angels? I’m just going there to look for my dad. And what if he’s gay? I just want to meet him! And maybe his partner if he has one! And-”
“Tyler,” Brody said with a smile. “It’s okay. I’m gay.”
Tyler blinked again. “You are?”
“Yup,” He nodded. “That’s why I left home too. Finding my father is the other reason.”
“So your dad is…” Tyler said trying to put two and two together.
“Bi,” Brody said. “He was married to my mom but it didn’t work out, so they got divorced and my mom moved away with my older brother and me. Then she lost custody of us and we both went to different foster houses…”
“I’m sorry to hear that, Brody,” Tyler said honestly. “You never saw your brother again?”
Brody shook his head. “We used to exchange letters before they moved us around too much. Dad said to us he would move to Arcadia of Angels once. So, Aiden and I promised that when we could, we would all meet there.”
“Aiden? That’s your brother?” Tyler asked.
“Yup,” Brody drank more of his coffee. “I’m hoping I get to find him and my dad there. I always thought was a longshot, but now…”
He motioned to Tyler who laughed, understanding where he was getting at.
“I guess luck does exist.” Brody said with a small smile.
“It sure seems so,” Tyler agreed. “Hum, Brody…”
“Yes?” The other man gave him a look.
“Why did you assume I was going to Arcadia of Angels because I am…?” Tyler trailed off.
“Gay?” Brody finished. “Well, are you?”
“I’m bisexual, actually,” Tyler said. “But that’s not really the reason why I’m going there.”
“It’s just a nice plus then.” Brody smirked.
“My cousin said something like that,” Tyler laughed. “But it’s more about my father. Although, if it doesn’t work out, it’s probably not a bad place to live.”
“Definitely not,” Brody said. “Can’t wait to go somewhere I can be myself for real.”
Tyler nodded, not wanting to ask too much about Brody’s past just yet. Angie appeared with two large trays of food, giving them to the two and wishing them a nice breakfast.
“Hey, Tyler?” Brody said while they had been eating in silence for a while.
Tyler swallowed a piece of pancake. “Yeah?”
“Thanks,” Brody gave him a warm smile. “For this. Really, thank you.”
“I’m glad to help, Brody,” Tyler smiled back. “Plus, I think we can agree it was meant to be.”
“I guess you convinced me,” Brody said. “About the ride.”
Tyler beamed. “Good to have your company.”
Both of them finished their breakfast. Tyler paid and tipped Angie while Brody said goodbye to the staff of the diner, telling them Tyler was going to give him a lift. Tyler took Brody to his Jeep. He was about to ask Brody if he had any bags with him except for the large backpack he carried around but decided not to when Brody sat on the Jeep's passenger seat and put on the seat belt. Tyler did the same on the driver’s seat, started the Jeep and they drove off.
Hours had passed and they were already in Washington. They had chat about some stuff, telling bits and pieces about their history. Tyler did most of the talking since Brody didn’t have many happy memories to share.
“Okay,” Brody asked as they drove by a diner. “I have to ask if you checked me out.”
“What?” Tyler laughed nervously. “Where did that come from? What makes you think that?”
“The way you reacted when you introduced yourself on the parking lot,” Brody smiled. “How you said I was fit.”
Tyler glanced at Brody who wiggled his eyebrows. “You are terrible.”
“Terribly good-looking?” Brody asked with a fake innocent voice.
“And too insistent!” Tyler laughed. “I don’t need to tell you how good-looking you are. You know that.”
“So you do admit I’m good-looking!” Brody laughed at Tyler blushing.
“What about me?” Tyler tried to change the subject. “No compliments?”
“You have a very nice ass,” Brody said, which made Tyler choke. “And so easy to get a rise out!
“Thanks, I guess,” Tyler was still blushing. “You have, hum, very nice arms.”
“Thanks!” He said, flexing one for Tyler, making the driver laugh. “I bet you’ll love my abs.”
“God, Brody!” Tyler had to laugh. “Are you always this forward?”
“No, actually I’m not,” Brody said honestly. “But since I know you’re not going to try to kill me and that you are into guys, I should be allowed to have some fun.”
Tyler decided not to comment on that and thought of something lighter to say. “Well, I have nice abs too.”
“Show me?” Brody asked mischievously.
“Here?” Tyler shook his head. “While we are driving on the highway?”
“Where is your sense of adventure?” Brody asked.
“I have a sense of adventure!” Tyler replied. “I just don’t want to take off my shirt while I’m behind the wheel of a car!”
Brody pouted playfully. “Okay then. When we get a chance, you take your shirt off for me.”
Tyler laughed out loud. “Only me? That seems unfair.”
“Oh, you want me to take off my shirt too?” Brody asked.
Before Tyler could do anything, Brody took not only his seat belt but also his jacket and shirt with very swift moves. Tyler’s eyes bulged not only because of that but because, well, Brody did have an amazing torso.
“Like what you see, huh?” Brody said as he raised his arm and swirled his shirt.
“Oh my god, Brody!” Tyler tried to reach the other man’s arm while focusing on the road at the same time. “Stop that!”
Both were laughing. Brody did put his shirt back and his seatbelt. He gave Tyler an innocent smile.
“Unbelievable.” Tyler said.
“Thank you!” Brody smiled. “I try my best to keep in shape.”
“I didn’t mean you! I mean, I did mean you!” Tyler tripped over his words. “I meant your moves!”
“I’m a Ninja!” Brody joked. “But, are you saying I don’t have an unbelievable body?”
This one liked to tease. “You have a great body, Brody.”
Brody smiled contently. “Just so you know, you owe me a show too.”
This trip was going to be interesting.
The passage through the border went smoothly. While Brody had no money, luckily they hadn’t stolen his documents, so they entered the country of Canada with no problem. They had decided to make a stop in Vancouver before heading to Arcadia of Angels. Both agreed to just stay for a few hours and not spend money in a hotel or motel, they just wanted to take a walk through the city.
Tyler couldn’t help but smile at Brody’s amazement of the city. Tyler himself was amazed by the city but Brody? He was ecstatic.
“Can you tell I’m from a small town?” Brody asked as they walked through the streets.
“A bit,” Tyler said. “Never went to Vegas?”
“Hah. I wish!” Brody said. “No time while be throwing around different houses and trying to no fail high school more than once.”
“More than once?” Tyler couldn’t help asking.
Brody gave him a sad smile. “I was held back. A couple of times. That’s why I never left before nineteen.”
“So,” Tyler processed. “You just finished high school?”
“Don’t judge.” Brody said quickly and somewhat serious.
“Not judging!” Tyler raised both hands. “Not judging at all, promise. It… must’ve been hard with all the foster stuff.”
Brody sighed. “It was. But I finally got my shit together, graduated and got the hell out of there.”
“And you bumped into me!” Tyler offered cheerfully.
Brody smiled. “A lot happened before that, but… yeah. I’m glad I did.”
“Good,” Tyler nodded. He liked seeing the younger man happy. “We are both not very far from doing what we want. Arcadia and our dads. We are almost there.”
“Yeah…” Brody had a look as if he were just realizing that. “I never thought… that it would actually happen.”
“It will,” Tyler put a hand on Brody’s shoulder and squeezed. “It is going to happen in a few hours!”
“What if…” Brody seemed troubled. “What if is not what we are expecting?”
“Well,” Tyler sighed. That thought had crossed his mind. Many times. “At least we will be in a great place and, well, now we have each other.”
Brody smiled. “You make it sound like we are a couple.”
Tyler blushed and began to stammer.
“Hey, relax!” Brody got in front of him, holding him by his arms with both arms. “I was just kidding.”
“Okay.” Tyler exhaled in relief.
“Hey!” Brody looked at him annoyed. “I’m not such a bad guy!”
“I’m not saying that!” Tyler said quickly. “It’s just that… we just met! How could we be a couple?”
“Yeah, true,” Brody let go of Tyler and both started walking side by side. “I never had a boyfriend.”
“Really?” Tyler was surprised. “Never?”
“Not a real one I could bring home,” Brody explained. “But I’ve fooled around.”
“Fooled around?” Tyler could actually picture Brody being kind of a party animal.
“It means I’m not a virgin, Tyler,” Brody said with tone specifically to make Tyler uncomfortable.
“I-I didn’t-” Tyler opened and closed his mouth but stopped after seeing Brody laughing. “You like pulling my leg.”
“You are just so easy!” Brody said, playfully pushing him with his shoulder. “It’s almost like you are the virgin.”
Tyler blushed, not responding. Brody’s eyes grew large and he put a hand over his mouth.
“Oh my god, Tyler!” At least he wasn’t laughing. He looked genuinely worried he had hurt the other man. “I didn’t mean it like it’s a bad thing!”
“I know, I know,” Tyler smiled briefly. “Like I said, I’m bi because I know I’m attracted to guys. I had girlfriends, serious girlfriends.”
“But boys?” Brody didn’t want to pry much.
“Kisses, touches,” Tyler listed as a blush formed on his face. “I’ve done some… more… serious stuff, but not sex sex. I don’t know if I’m making myself clear.”
“Can I be myself?” Brody asked with a sheepish smile.
“Please.” Tyler threw his hand up.
“You sucked a guy’s dick or the other way around or both,” Brody said as if it was the commonest thing to talk about. “How did I do?”
“Top marks,” Tyler said before covering his face. “God, I’m over twenty and I’ve never had a boyfriend either or actual sex with a man.”
Brody nodded. Then he stopped, which made Tyler stop and look at him confused.
“Everything okay?” Tyler asked.
“I want to try something.” Brody said.
“What?” Tyler actually asked that innocently.
Brody took a few steps and his nose was millimeters away from Tyler’s “I want to kiss you. May I?”
Tyler’s jaw dropped. He tried to say something but nothing came out.
“I understand if you don’t want to and I won’t take it personally.” Brody explained with a smile, just to make sure Tyler really understood.
“But,” Tyler looked around. “Here? In the middle of the street?”
“Tyler!” He motioned around with his arms. “This Vancouver, British Columbia. As in the second state in Canada to legalize gay marriage! Nobody cares about two dudes kissing! And if someone has a problem, we are fit, remember?”
Tyler chuckled but he still seemed nervous. He inhaled and exhaled. “Do you really want to?”
“I do.” Brody nodded firmly.
“Well, okay, you may kis-” Brody pressing his lips against Tyler’s interrupted him.
Tyler’s eyes were open but he soon closed them. Brody’s lips were firms. He couldn’t help but put his hands on Brody’s arms and feel his muscles. Brody’s hands held both sides of Tyler’s head. After a minute of pressing lips, they opened their mouths and let their tongues explore. Tyler’s fingers grabbed to Brody’s arms firmly. Brody’s breathing was intensifying. Tyler thought that people probably were looking at them. Brody kept twirling his tongue before giving Tyler lower lip a small bite and pulled out of the kiss.
“So,” Brody exhaled. “How was it?”
Tyler had his mouth agape and his head nodding. “It was…”
“Good, right?” Brody asked a bit more hopeful.
“Definitely!” Tyler said. “Definitely, I just…”
“Never been kissed like that?” Brody asked smugly.
“I have,” Tyler said smugly back. “It was different though…”
“It didn’t really click,” Brody said looking into Tyler’s eyes. “Did it?”
Tyler sighed. He knew what Brody meant by that and he didn’t want to hurt Brody’s feelings. “Brody, look, it was…”
“Hey,” Brody took one Tyler’s hand. “It didn’t click for me either.”
“It didn’t?” Tyler asked more surprised than upset.
Brody shrugged. “I guess us together like that… isn’t meant to be like the rest.”
Tyler nodded, smiling. “So, are we okay?”
“We,” Brody put his arm around Tyler’s shoulders. “Are more than okay. We are friends.”
Tyler smiled broadly “Friends.”
Both kept walking like that as they appreciated what the city had to offer.
“Do you kiss all your friends like that?” Tyler asked.
After spending the morning in Vancouver, they decided to finally head to Arcadia of Angels. The drive wasn’t too long. Tyler said they could make in less than an hour and a half.
“I’m nervous.” Brody said out of nowhere at one point.
“Me too,” Tyler confessed. “But remember what we talked about.”
“Right,” Brody nodded, trying to calm down. “We’ll be in a great city. We have each other. You help me find a job. You have money and you can resume your classes there, maybe even find a job at the dinosaur museum.”
Tyler smiled. “Adding finding our fathers and your brother to that, I think we can say it would be perfect.”
“It would be perfect if our dads get along with us,” Brody said a bit worried and looked at Tyler. “Do you worry about that part?”
“To be honest?” Tyler was looking straight ahead. “I do. My father was young, like really young when I was born. I… I don’t know if he really wanted kids.”
“Even if he didn’t want kids,” Brody patted Tyler’s shoulder. “I’m sure he will see a great man that his son turned into.”
“Thanks,” Tyler smiled to Brody. “And I am sure your father will be thrilled to see you.”
“I hope so,” Brody said, looking at the road ahead of them. “And I hope Aiden is there and we all reunite.”
Tyler smiled and squeezed one Brody’s hand. “I’m sure everything will work out. For both of us.”
They had finally arrived at Arcadia of Angels. The paradise of the LGBTQIA+ community. Whoever said that was completely and utterly right. This was a paradise. The entrance to the medium-sized city even said ‘Welcome to the city of all rainbows’ on a sign. Speaking of rainbows, there were countless around. On flags, on ribbons, on peoples shirts as well as all other flags of the community. People, of all genders and sexualities, walked without a worry in the world. Tyler and Brody could not believe their eyes.
“This,” Brody had to blink the water away from his eyes. “This place is incredible!”
“It’s better than I dreamed it would be.” Tyler actually allowed himself to shed some tears of joy.
After driving through the wonderful streets of Arcadia of Angels, they parked in front of a collection of small apartments. A sign said ‘Coconut Grove Apartments’. Tyler got out with his backpack. Brody was about to do the same when Tyler told him not to.
“Don’t worry,” Tyler reassured him. “We are in a safe place remember?”
“Right,” Brody nodded, leaving his backpack in the Jeep. “And this place?”
“I rented an apartment here for the next couple of months,” He explained and Brody gave him a look. “What? I needed a place to stay and I have no idea how long it will take me to find my dad. This is not a big city but it isn’t a small town either.”
“We might take some time.” Brody nodded in agreement.
“Let’s go inside then, come on.” He motioned for Brody to follow him inside.
They arrived at the Lobby, which was very cozy. Behind the front desk, there was a young man dressed all in black with a cap turned around and headphones on, moving to the song he was listening to. Tyler approached the desk, putting himself into the man’s point of view and waved.
“Oh!” The young man said, immediately taking off his headphones. “Lunch hour, I didn’t think people would come here during it. How can help you two mates?”
Tyler recognized the Kiwi accent from the man. He looked at a tag on his shirt. “Well, Chase, I’m Tyler Navarro. I talked to the landlord, I mean, the landlady about a month ago. I rented an apartment here.”
“Tyler Navarro, then,” He turned his attention to a computer and typed. “Yup, there you are. An apartment for one.”
He turned back with a smile but noticed Brody standing right next to Tyler, making an oh with his mouth. “Did I get something wrong? My information here is an apartment for one. Not two.”
“Oh!” Tyler looked at Brody and shook his head. “That’s not a problem, is it?”
“Nope!” He said he as he went to grab a set of keys. “You and your boyfriend can share the queen-size bed.”
Tyler and Brody both laughed. “We’re not boyfriends.” “He’s not my boyfriend.”
“Oooh,” Chase raised an eyebrow to both men. “Single then.”
“Hum,” Tyler adjusted the backpack on his shoulder. “Yep. Two single guys.”
“I wouldn’t kick him out of my bed,” Chase said in a lower voice, but loud enough for Brody to hear, as he leaned in towards Tyler and winked. “Or you mate.”
Tyler didn’t know how to respond while Brody just chuckled with amusement.
“Chase!’ A female voice called out as she entered the Lobby. “Keep your claws away from our tenants, please.”
Tyler turned to see a beautiful blonde woman dressed impeccably in black leather and yellow. She looked annoyingly to Chase as the man apologized. She simply shook her head and approached both men.
“Please, excuse Chase,” She smiled to them at the same time she shot Chase a killing look. “He sometimes gets… too friendly.”
“Right, friendly.” Brody said smirking at Chase who noticed and put his head on his hand, seemingly appreciating the view.
“Chase!” The woman yelled. “Back to work!”
“Right!” He shook his head, tearing his eyes away from Brody. “Right, right. Sorry again, Gia!”
The woman, Gia, sighed. “I’m Gia Moran. Which one of you is Tyler Navarro?”
“That would be me.” Tyler offered her a hand. “I’m Tyler Navarro.”
“Well,” Gia took his hand and shook it. “I’m the landlady here in Coconut Grove Apartments. I’m glad you chose us!”
“Of course!” Tyler smiled brightly as Gia took her hand back.
“And you are?” She turned to Brody with a curious look.
“Brody Romero,” He gave his hand for her to shake it as well. “I know I’m not on the plan, but my friend Tyler here invited me to stay with him.”
“Well,” Gia shook his hand. “The apartment you rented only has one queen-sized bed and unfortunately, I’m not sure we will have another one so soon.”
“Oh!’ Tyler looked at Brody who simply smiled. “It’s no problem really.”
“Okay then,” She said smiling and turning on her heels. “If you follow me, I’ll show you to your apartment.”
As the three walked away, Chase’s head popped from out of the counter to look at Tyler’s and Brody’s behinds with an appreciating look. Wow.
“Chase!” The scream came from outside the room but scared the man enough to go back to his work.
Gia walked them to the third floor of one of the six small buildings and took them to apartment 334. She asked Tyler for the keys who gave them to her with a bright smile. She thanked him and opened the apartment.
“This one has a living/dining room, a complete kitchen, two walking closets with one being on the bedroom, a bathroom with a bathtub and shower and a balcony, as you can see.” Gia explained.
“Wow.” Brody’s eyebrows were high. “It’s beautiful in here.”
“Thank you,” Gia said appreciatively. “Most of the rooms were decorated by a friend of one of my business partners, Julian.”
“His work is great!” Tyler said.
“I’m sure he’ll be happy to hear it,” Gia said. “Mr. Navarro, I believe you have boxes and bags?”
“I do, they are in my Jeep,” Tyler said. “And you can call me Tyler.”
“Well, Tyler, if you need any help carrying them and tell me,” Gia said. “We have someone that can help you carry your things. Just ask for Koda at the reception. And once again, I’m sorry for Chase.”
Both young men laughed.
“He’s… feisty, I will say that.” Brody commented.
“Don’t get me started,” She sighed. Clearly, Chase was a headache Gia was already used to it. “But, he’s practically family, so.”
“Do you run this all by yourself?” Brody asked out of curiosity.
“Mostly,” Gia answered. “This used to be my parents’ but none of my brothers wanted to run it, so I’m responsible for it. My girlfriend helps, but she has her own job, so I have a couple of partners who help me out.”
“Your girlfriend?” Tyler asked out of curiosity as well.
“Yes,” Gia said smiling. “She works as a professional photographer. She lives here. You guys you probably meet her eventually. Her name is Emma.”
“We’ll be happy to meet her.” Tyler smiled.
Gia smiled back. She liked him. “Well, there is a list of numbers of the establishment next to the phone, if you need anything, just call.”
“Thank you, Gia.” Brody said.
Gia nodded with a smile. Before she could say something, a knock came from the opened door. A dark-skinned woman with short black hair dressed in white and pink stood there, waving and smiling.
“Hey, Gia,” The woman said. “Chase told me you would be here. We’ve got that meeting, remember?”
Gia gave her a look. “Of course I remember, Shelby. I am a professional, thank you very much.”
The other woman, Shelby, rolled her eyes. “Of course, Ms. Business Graduate.”
Brody chuckled at the exchange and noted that Tyler was looking at Shelby quite… appreciatively.
“Tyler, Brody, this is Shelby Watkins, one of my partners here at Coconut Grove Apartments,” Gia said introducing the woman. “Shelby, these two are our new tenants.”
“Hello!” She said waving at them. “Nice to have you guys with us.”
“Hi! Nice to meet you, Shelby!” Tyler said cheerfully. “Thank you! I mean, thanks for having us. This place is great!”
“They liked Julian’s decoration.” Gia told Shelby.
“Oh!” Shelby opened a brighter smile. “Isn’t it the best? Julian is such a talented artist.”
“He is! It’s amazing, really!” Tyler agreed, nodding and smiling at Shelby. It was clear, at least to Brody, that he was trying to present himself the best way possible to Shelby.
Brody raised an eyebrow and cleared his throat. “So, Shelby, do you live here too?”
“I used to,” She explained. “I live with my girlfriend in her apartment now. It’s closer to her work.”
“Girlfriend?” Tyler couldn’t help to let the word escape his mouth.
“Yeah,” Shelby smiled. “She’s the curator at the dinosaur museum here in Arcadia of Angels.”
“If you want to blame someone for Chase, that will be her.” Gia said in a playful tone.
“Gia!” Shelby protested. “It’s not Kendall’s fault that Chase can’t keep it in his pants!”
“It’s still so weird to hear you calling her Kendall instead of Mr. Morgan,” Gia teased. “But I guess it’s one of the perks on dating your boss.”
“Gia!” Shelby looked mortified. She grabbed Gia’s arm and started to pull her out of the apartment. “We have to go. It was nice meeting you two!”
Gia laughed. “Well, we have to be going now. I still need to check and see if Chase has his eyes on his work instead of other… things. Welcome again, Tyler and Brody. I’ll see you guys around. Bye.”
“Bye guys!” Shelby said as she forcefully dragged Gia away, whispering something to her.
“Bye Gia, bye Shelby.” Tyler said smiling but as soon as he closed the door, his smile disappeared.
“I’m sorry, buddy,” Brody came next to him and put both his hands on Tyler’s shoulders.
“What do you mean?” Tyler asked, clearly playing dumb.
“Hey,” Brody started massing Tyler’s shoulders. “No need to put an act. Shelby is a very pretty woman. It’s okay if you are attracted.”
“She’s quite pretty,” Tyler said nodding. “But, she’s committed.”
“I’m sure you’ll have plenty of girls to meet here.” Brody told him, trying to cheer him up. “Or boys too. Chase seemed interested.”
Tyler laughed. “On both of us. I don’t know if he’s the boyfriend type though.”
“So, you are only interested if the guy is boyfriend type?” Brody asked.
Tyler thought a bit. “I suppose. I’m more of a serious relationship kind of guy.”
“Well,” Brody let go of him. “Doesn’t mean you can’t have fun, right?”
“I’m not going to sleep with Chase!” Tyler said baffled.
“I didn’t say for you to do that!” Brody laughed. “What I am saying is that you should allow yourself to have fun and meet people. I’m not telling to go and screw every person you meet here.”
Tyler sighed in relief. “Good.”
“Although,” Brody lifted a finger. “Since we only have one bed, maybe we should make some sort of schedule for, you know, sleepovers?”
“Brody!” Tyler couldn’t believe the younger man.
“What? I wouldn’t want you to walk in on me,” Brody explained. “The same way I wouldn’t want to walk in on you.”
“Can we leave the sex schedule table for another time?” Tyler asked. “I’m thinking of taking a shower and do some exploring, what do you think?”
“Sounds great!” Brody agreed. “But wait!”
“What?” Tyler asked as Brody come over to him. Without warning, Brody pulled Tyler’s shirt off him. “Brody!”
“Holy…!” Brody was impressed. “You’ve got a sick body, Tyler!”
“Give me that!” He yanked his shirt of Brody’s hand. “Why did you that for?”
“Hey. I showed you myself without a shirt and we agreed you would do the same for me next.” Brody said, still checking Tyler’s torso out.
“Fine, fine!” Tyler covered his chest with his shirt. “Happy now?”
“Oh,” Brody smiled devilishly. “I certainly am. Wanna check my pants?”
Tyler closed his eyes with his mouth hanging open and walked towards the bathroom. “I’m going to take a shower and then you too. After that, we go out.”
“Aye, aye!” He said. As Tyler entered the bathroom and clearly locked it, Brody chuckled and went to open the doors of the balcony. The breeze was gentle and it had a great view. He really hoped this place would be what he and Tyler wanted it to be.