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Bradley POV

It was fucking freezing and all I wanted was to find Hal. If he would just text me back, call me, anything, to stop this feeling in the pit of my stomach. I just needed to know he was okay. I was frustrated, I missed Laura, the covid numbers were peaking and it just felt like the whole world was falling apart.

When Corey showed up to my apartment to help me look for Hal I was grateful but now he's rambling about something he's done and something he needs to tell me and he blurts it out, "I love you."

He continued to talk and I tried to listen but it made no sense to me. He loved me? He keeps saying it, over and over and I don't know how to answer that. He's my boss, a friend, and I don't feel the same way. He's waiting for me to respond.

By the glory of God my phone rings and it's news about Hal. Corey drives us to the hospital and as I'm sitting in the passenger seat I realize what I think I've known all along. I love Laura. From the moment I met her she's captivated me and I have been completely enchanted by her and wanting to be with her. She's helped me grow and has tried to help me understand myself, she's taken the time to do something others have been too afraid to. Her calm, her strength pulls me to her every time and these past couple of days have been hell without her.

Corey telling me about his feelings isn't something I needed right now. I didn't need him confessing his love for me when all I want is less problems and he's adding more.

She doesn't even know, she doesn't know I love her. I've been holding it in, waiting for the other shoe to drop. But I've fallen for her, I want her more than anything and all I wish in this moment is that she was the one here helping me, that she was the one telling me she was in love with me. I'm not even sure she feels the same way. I've been ignoring her because part of me thinks she'll be angry about all this effort I'm going through for Hal, but I keep hearing this voice in the back of my head telling me to pick up the phone.

When we pull up to the hospital, all I want is to see Hal. Walking in there is tons of people waiting to be seen. We rush up and the woman up front obviously has her hands full. Corey covers for me and I go looking until I find Hal. I've never felt a bigger relief in my life. Hugging him, seeing that he is okay. He apologizes profusely and he keeps telling me he didn't use. When he tells me he got beat up I feel dread and guilt for having left him alone. I promise that I'm not going to leave him.

When a doctor comes to check on him he tells me that Hal had a covid test done and that he was negative. His sweats and shakes are from withdrawal. I know it's going to be hard, and I don't care, I'll stick with him, until he's through it. The next couple of days are hard, watching him suffer but it's the only way. Corey has called over and over again and I can't bring myself to answer, I just don't want to. I have enough on my plate and he isn't who I want.

Hal had another covid test done before leaving the hospital and he's still in the clear. I had some done in between the days and I've been negative. He got discharged and I took him back to the hotel with me. Physically the drugs should be cleared from his body but that doesn't mean he won't still crave them.

He was resting in my bed while I decided what to do. I was distant with Laura because Hal was keeping me busy, and I wanted to call her, but more than anything, I needed to see her. Hearing her voice wouldn't be enough. There was a knock on my door and I got up to check. It was Corey, I sighed and opened the door.

"Hey, how is everything?"

I stepped out into the hall, closing the door behind me, "He's better."

"What about you? How are you?"

"Corey, we need to talk about-"

"Look, I know it seems like what I said came out of nowhere. But it really isn't Bradley. You and I were close, and you were kind to me. You'd come over to visit and and hang out and I started to feel a real connection between us. You can't deny that."

"Because I was your friend. Not because I was interested in you. Corey I love Laura."

I saw him tense up a bit, "Laura isn't here. She isn't even helping you."

"Because she's in Montana taking care of her health. She has a heart condition and she would be here if she could."

"Bradley, please. The way I feel about you, it's real. Laura Peterson has a different girl on her arm every night of the week."

I scoffed, "those are just rumors."

"How are you so sure that she doesn't have someone with her in Montana right now?"

"Why are you acting this way? You're acting like a child who couldn't get the toy they wanted and now you're throwing a fit. I'm not something you can stretch and bend to your want and need. I know it hurts you to see it, but I care about Laura and she cares about me. And I'd appreciate it if we could keep our relationship strictly professional from now on. It was my mistake for trying to forge a friendship with you. I thought you wouldn't be the kind to take that to mean I was interested."

"Bradley-"

"I should go back inside." I saw the look on his face of complete disappointment and I couldn't even feel bad for him. His comments were irritating and demeaning. When I went back in I saw Hal standing near the door. "Hey, what are you doing up?"

"Heard some noise."

"Sorry."

"Why are you here?"

I looked around, "because this is my hotel room."

"No, I mean, why aren't you with your girlfriend?"

"I don't understand."

"I'm okay. You don't need to watch over me. I can be alone, I can take care of myself. It's time for you to stop looking after me."

"Hal-"

"You were right. A lot of what you said when you dropped me off at rehab, you were right. The truth hurts, and that's probably why I stayed clean. I wanted to fight and show you I could do it. And I did. So please, don't let me keep holding you back. Go be with her."

"It's not that simple Hal. I...I haven't even asked if she wants me to go over and-"

"That's an excuse Bradley. Go, please."

The next day I was on a flight to Montana and still couldn't believe it. I texted Hal every five minutes praying I wasn't making a mistake. When I landed I got an Uber to take me to her property. Stepping out of the car, my breath was completely taken away. It was gorgeous. Walking up to the front door I could feel my heartbeat getting quicker. I knocked on the door and my breath was taken away for the second time when Laura opened the door. She smiled, "well if it isn't Bradley Jackson." She grabbed my hand and pulled me into a kiss.

This felt right, it felt like I was where I needed to be. I can't believe I thought I could go a month or two without seeing her. I barely survived a couple of days.

When we separated she smiled again, "this is a nice surprise. How are things with your brother?"

"Good, he's good. He's actually the reason I'm here. He opened my eyes up a bit."

She grabbed my bags and brought them inside. I couldn't wait any longer, "I love you. I'm in love with you."

I could see Laura processing what I had said and I was terrified she'd react badly. She looked at me with the same look she had the day I asked her if I was her woman, "I love you too." She put her hands on both sides of my arms and leaned in to kiss me again, "you have completely turned my world upside down Bradley, but in a really good way. I can't help but be in love with you."

"I was afraid to say it, afraid you'd run."

"I'm not going anywhere. It's you and me."

"I didn't believe in love before I met you. And I never really felt at peace anywhere or with anyone. But with you, I...I feel like I'm home."