[one week later]
He saw them coming. He’d felt them long before he saw them, actually. Something he’d always been able to do. Since the three were kids. He liked to think that gift saved him countless times as a kid from being ‘it’ in their games of tag.
In this case, however, he also had a feeling he knew what they had in mind.
Somehow, it didn’t seem to him that it was bad news, either.
So naturally he surprised them both when they showed up on his doorstep that afternoon by saying, “I was expecting you guys.”
Andy’s eyebrows arched in surprise. “You were?”
“Of course,” Nick grinned. “Remember tag?”
“That’s right,” Andy groaned. “Cheater.”
“Sixth Sense,” Tommy reminded them. “You’re just jealous I have it, and you don’t.”
“That would be it,” Andy laughed.
“T,” Nick began. “We.. erm.. have something to tell you.”
“But first,” Andy interrupted. “I have to talk to you. About these last three weeks, and your serious attitude problem with me.”
“I was standing for what I believed in,” Tommy told her simply. “You didn’t want to believe me when I told you that wasn’t right, and I wasn’t gonna change my opinion to keep on your good side.”
“I realize that,” she told him. “But ending a friendship was just too drastic a measure to resort to. You realize you’d thrown away nearly twenty years of our lives that day, don’t you?”
“I do,” he sighed. “It seemed like the last I could do. I mean, if that wasn’t enough for you to snap back to reality, then nothing was really sacred anymore to us, and it’d be best if it did end. Andy, we’re not the same kids we used to be. We’re all in our twenties now, we’ve all lived very different things, developed our own opinions and outlooks...”
“And we’re not always gonna see eye to eye on certain things,” she told him matter-of-factly. “That’s the thing, Tommy; we grow up together, we learn things about each other all the time, it never stops. We accept each other for who we were, what we are now, and what we’ll eventually be. We love each other, the three of us, ever since I can remember. You’re family to me, both of you, and I don’t know what I’d do if we’d ever go our separate ways.”
“You don’t know how bad I had it without you two all those years,” Nick began. “I knew I’d broken the promise the day I realized my letters wouldn’t be able to reach you guys. I felt bad, awful, and I couldn’t sleep for a while those first months on the road with the guys, just thinking about you two moving on without me, leaving me behind in memories.”
“Just because you broke the promise doesn’t mean we did,” Tommy told him. “We thought about you constantly. To the point that it made us angry that you were not there, that you couldn’t keep one simple promise.”
“But you had each other,” Nick argued, beginning to feel the familiar stinging in his eyes. “You were still friends.”
“And you had them,” Andy turned to Nick, “You had Brian, and Kevin and Howie, and that other one,” she chuckled softly when Tommy laughed at the way she’d mentioned AJ, “And they’d become your family. Nick, you’ve been with them for nearly eight years now. They’re family just as much as we are. While we can’t be combined into one big family, obviously, we’re still a part of YOU, who you are.”
“I feel really lucky I came back and things turned out the way they did,” Nick confessed. “Despite all the problems we’ve had since we came into each other’s lives again, I’m glad everything happened the way it did. We wouldn’t be right here, right now, had it not been for all that.”
“Speaking of right here and right now,” Tommy jumped in, “What is it that you have to tell me?”
He studied them both, the way they looked at each other, the way they smiled, and he just KNEW.
“Oh, great,” he groaned mockingly, a small smile on his lips. “Since when?”
“A week ago,” Andy told her friend. “That day at the studio, remember?”
“That day, huh?” Tommy grinned. “That would explain the disappearing act you two pulled this past week. I knew something was going on, something like this, but for everyone’s sake, I kept it to myself. AJ’s not too happy though, about anything that’s happened.”
“And how do you know this?” Nick asked.
“Easy,” Tommy sighed. “I talked to him. I actually sat with him and talked.”
“And you didn’t hit him?” Andy laughed.
“Surprising, ain’t it?” he chuckled. “Seriously though, I did talk to him. After you guys took off, he came out of the studio looking really out of it. Howie immediately called it a day and went home. He didn’t want to deal with AJ, and I wouldn’t blame him. Then Carolina, that’s the chick you called a blessing in disguise, Andy, she went to him and asked if he was all right. He went OFF. Yelled at her, the works. He loved that woman, you could tell that easily, but he has it bad for you now. You were more important to him than anything else, and he really DID have no idea this chick would show up. Because that’s what had happened; she showed up that very day, out of the blue, after three years. Nick going to get you was something he wasn’t counting on.”
“Yeah, well, he shouldn’t have brought her inside,” Nick argued. “He shouldn’t have talked to her AT ALL.”
“I agree,” Tommy said as Andy watched him intently. “But he did, no one can blame the guy for being courteous. What can I say? She got under his skin, and you know the rest. One thing’s sure, though; he really thought you were it, dude. The rest of his life. He thought something else, too. He had suspicions of Nick’s feelings for you... said he wouldn’t be surprised if you ended up being the one making her happy.”
“Wow,” Andy breathed. “You guys really bonded, huh?”
“Yeah,” Tommy nodded. “You know, you‘re gonna hurt me for this, but he’s not really a bad person. He’s pretty cool. We’ve been hanging out this past week a lot.”
“Tommy!” Andy exclaimed. “You HATE the guy. With a passion, if I may remind you. Damnit, you should’ve bonded YEARS ago and saved us all a hell of a lot of trouble!” she punched him playfully on the arm. “But of course, you LOVE to make things complicated.”
“It’s when I shine my brightest, Kid,” he laughed, hugging her tightly. “You know that.”
Nick saw them hug and smiled. This was how he’d wanted it all along. Tommy, his best friend, his brother. Andy, his best friend, the love of his life. The three of them, together, like they should have been all these years.
Nearly two decades of memories, good and bad, and even more decades to come.
They were going to build new hopes, new dreams, make new memories, and live their lives together for as long as they could. Breaking away and living independent lives was now something he didn’t fear, and he knew they didn’t, either. One day, they’d leave each other to live life as they’d see fit. Tommy would meet someone that would mean the world to him, the way he and Andy had. They’d all embark on different adventures, and while they’d be apart physically, the emotional, spiritual connection they’ve shared all along would never falter. Whether they’d come together again dozens of years down the line, or just stayed together from here on out, whichever road they took, they knew that nothing at all, come hell or high water, could break them down, tear them apart, or kill the dreams in their hearts.
Not even Time.