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It's more than just the creativity and the control that Hobbie likes about writing. It's being able to go into his office and shut the door behind him, shut out the entirety of reality and sink into his own world. No other concerns, no other people, no having to worry about what to say or how to act.

It's exactly the opposite of where he is right now. He hadn't wanted to do a book tour for precisely those reasons, but his agent had argued that at least doing a few readings and signings at local book shops to promote his second novel would help sell more copies. Hobbie had reluctantly agreed, on one condition – that Wes would get to come with him.

Which brings him to the folding table in The Drowsy Reader surrounded by piles of books, his husband at his side. The reading had gone well, the small but enthusiastic crowd eating up his words as Hobbie stumbled over them only a few times. But now that they're all in line waiting for autographed copies, it seems like he misjudged the number of them. It feels like they've been at this for hours, and he's starting to get that itch under his skin that means he needs some away from people.

Yet another person steps up, and Hobbie smiles up at her, hoping he doesn't look as tired as he feels. “Who can I make it out to?” he asks as he flips open a copy of his book.

The woman tells him her name and as he starts signing, gushes, “I just love the first one so much, I can't wait to get into the sequel. They're so original – I don't know where you get your ideas!”

Hobbie smiles at her again as he hands her the signed book. The woman makes a little squealing sound and heads off toward the register. Hobbie looks up, feeling a bit dizzy when he sees how much of the line he still has to go through.

Suddenly, Wes is on his feet. “Sorry, people,” he says to the assembled. “I think our dear author needs a quick break. We'll only be a moment.” He ignores sounds of disappointment as he helps a flummoxed Hobbie out of his chair and steers him toward the back of the store.

As soon as they're around a bookshelf and in an empty aisle, Wes stops and turns a frown on Hobbie. “You okay, babe? You look like you're starting to get a little overwhelmed out there.”

“It's been a long day,” Hobbie admits.

“You can always end early if you need to.”

Hobbie runs his flesh hand over his face, sighing. He does want to. He wants to go home and relax and decompress. Undress and take off his aching prosthetics and just relax. Maybe put some words on his current project. But no.

He shakes his head. “My fans came out to see me. I don't want to be ungrateful. And I won't disappoint them.”

Wes's expression softens, and his hands land on Hobbie's waist, pulling him in for a gentle hug. “You're too nice for your own good, you know that? Okay then. How about this: I'll try and distract some of them. Less socializing work for you.”

“How are you going to do that?”

Wes grins mischievously. “Maybe I'll tell the next person who asks where you get your ideas that these books are just thinly-veiled autobiographies of your past life in a series of galactic wars.”

Hobbie chuckles. “I'd like to see the expression on their face.” He peeks back around the bookshelf and sighs. The line hasn't changed. “If I get it over with, it'll be done.”

“Okay. I'm here for you, all right, Hobbs.”

Hobbie squeezes his hand. “It really does help. Thanks for coming.”

“Wouldn't miss it. Need anything else before we go back?”

“Get me another coffee?”

“Sure thing.”

Hobbie makes his way back to the table, leveling a more genuine smile and an apology at the next person in line as he signs their book. A few moments later, Wes rejoins him with a hot cup of coffee and a cannoli from the shop's small cafe.

Soon after, Wes is regaling the attentive audience with tales of what it's like to be the long-suffering husband of a super famous best-selling author (his words). Hobbie can only smile and roll his eyes as he half-listens, the line seeming to move faster now, though most of the readers linger to hear the end of a story or two. They're all short, harmless ones; Wes knows the things Hobbie doesn't care about his fans knowing and what he'd rather keep private, and he's grateful for that.

Finally, the last fan leaves with his book, and Hobbie lets out a breath of relief. The shop owner tells them not to worry about cleaning up, that she and her staff will take care of everything, and then Wes and Hobbie are out the door.

“Survived another one,” Wes teases gently.

Hobbie makes a face. “Only four more to go.”

Wes takes his hand and tows him toward the car, promising, “I'll be with you every step of the way.”

With that reassurance and the promise of quiet relief waiting at home, Hobbie is sure he can handle anything.