Hi, this is re-edited Chapter 1 for your reading pleasure. Hope it reads better this time. Thanks for taking the time :) Review if you feel like it, but flames make me cry

:( Please don't make the author cry!

This story will contain SLASH! (maleXmale relationships), though it doesn't seem like it yet. Be patient, my dears! I appreciate constructive criticism, and I don't have a beta so I'm sure there are plenty of mistakes. Glad you made it past the first chapter and have come this far! Will be some language, some citrusy elements if I can get my courage and hormones in sync long enough to write them, some random odd comments by the author/narrator voice (feel free to ignore!). May be a tiny amount of het (I apologize in advance!) as the story develops. Oh, and we meet several potential love interests in the next chapter!

Xxx scene break

'mmm yaoi' thoughts

"yeah, baby, kiss him!" speaking

XXXXX

Which is not to say that one rotten apple spoiled this particular barrel. That is, please don't think it was purely based on one bad relationship that things changed in the way that they did. Perhaps it wasn't as much of a change as some people think? Hm. Ponder that, will you?

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Elmington was a small town—a "working man's town". Two bars, a bank, no stop lights, three cops. The sidewalks rolled up at 6 every night, unless there was a show or game at the high school, and with no movie theater nearby, except for the crappy old drive-in a couple miles out of town, there was scarce entertainment to be had. His chances of finding of job in the immediate township were remote, but thankfully there were quite a few larger towns in a reasonable driving distance. It had always been one of the things he liked so much about being here. You don't like the scenery? Take a twenty-minute drive and go through 4 different towns; there's sure to be something you're looking for. You want cow pastures? You got it. Apple orchards? Yep. Mini Golf? Check. Drive-up ice cream place? Got two.

It was great to be back in the town in which he'd grown up, but living with his parents was starting to take its toll. Actually, his fingertips were down to nubs from climbing the walls, but who was keeping track?

The little voice of guilt reminded Bryan of his parents' incredible generosity and unconditional support, especially after it turned out that the divorce settlement wouldn't carry him through. They offered to let him come back home, a move that Bryan had quite a few mixed feelings over. On one hand he was grateful for the chance to spend time with his family, people that loved and adored him no matter what happened, not to mention free cable-dude! But, the other hand was poking at his masculine pride. Dumped, sent back to his mommy and daddy in humiliation, unable to pay his own way-not dude! He'd already run into a few people from his school days, and the embarrassment of explaining his situation was almost painful. His mother had kindly but firmly informed Bryan yesterday that the grace period was over and that she wanted her couch back. Apparently his funky mood was affecting everyone in the house, and his father especially was becoming exasperated at his son's inertia. Bryan, the kid who worked his butt off through high school to earn enough for college, who made varsity in soccer through sheer determination (think of that movie 'Rudy') until a bad slide ruined his knee, the kid who volunteered without prompting to help out at church…had become a ten-toed couch sloth. It was heartbreaking in his father's eyes. So, they encouraged as much as they could. Relentlessly. Endlessly. Any more 'help' and he'd run barking into the night.

Bryan sighed and looked into the mirror over the sink in the bathroom. He had taken to hiding out in there since he realized the bathroom was the only room where they wouldn't come after him. Their concern was appreciated, but it could be overwhelming at times. Sometimes a man just needed time to himself, if you know what I mean.

'They do it because they care. And they're right. I know it. It's just so hard!' Bryan successfully ignored the whiny tone of his inner voice. Nothing like moving back home to make you regress. But it was true, they were right. He needed to get off his depressed rear-end and do something. The divorce had been a major kick in the ass, leaving his life turned upside down and inside out, but it wasn't enough. It was time to fully commit to changing perspectives.

'Clean slate. Change is good. I can change. I can do anything I want to do. Nothing holding me back now!'

Pep talks were getting easier, but he still felt silly talking to himself in the mirror.

"Change is good," he whispered, crossing his eyes at his pale reflection. Floppy, boring dark brown hair. Rectangular, black framed glasses showcased the big green eyes framed by lashes his mother and Jolene had both envied, his lips were slightly full for a man but gave balance to his sharp jaw…It wasn't bad, but it could be better. At least he was fit. Not built like an underwear model or anything, but fairly slender, tall, just enough muscle not to feel like a girly nerd but not enough to scare old ladies on the sidewalk. Plus, he'd lost that last bit of pudge around his middle these past few months while everything was so stressful, so that was a happy little bonus.

He eyed himself critically, wondering where to start on his new project—makeover! No wait, that sounded kinda…like the Queer Eye guys. What was a manly word for 'makeover?' Renovation! Much better. The edgy new glasses had already made a huge difference. His mother was thrilled to see him looking more stylish for a change, but had still tried to talk him into contacts. Bryan had had an "eyeball-thing" and the thought of touching his own eyeball was disturbing. Besides, he thought, I like myself in glasses. An image of Marty from Grease popped into his head. He smiled at his reflection.

"Nah, you can still see your face!" He laughed. Another guilty secret, but he blamed that on a college girlfriend who'd loved the movie so much that she'd made him watch it on endless repeat. So what, he knew all the words. He was still manly damn it! One musical doesn't mean anything! He growled in a manly way at the mirror. Grrr…Manly!

"Bryan, honey, what are you doing in there?" Elizabeth's voice came through the door.

"Sounds like he's having a party!" Great, Dad was out there, too.

"Just me and a couple of cheerleaders I brought home. Can you give us some privacy?"

"Nice, Bryan. Let me know if you run out of beer." He could hear his father's footsteps retreating down the hall.

"You two are so strange." His mother's voice held an amused note of disapproval.

Bryan opened the door and looked out at his mother's raised eyebrow, then said the thing all mothers long to hear.

"Mom, can we go shopping?"

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After an hour's drive and three different malls, Bryan had a wardrobe suitable for a new job and all conceivable occasions safely ensconced in the trunk of his car. Shopping was even more fun when he realized that he'd gone down a size due to the "Misery Diet" he'd been on since his marriage had started to collapse. Silver linings everywhere! However, the divorce settlement had dwindled alarmingly, bringing the need for employment much more quickly to the top of the list. He was having a Scarlett O'hara moment though, and put off thinking about the job for another day. At least he wasn't wearing the curtains yet.

Elizabeth had promised Bryan a trip to the salon as a belated Christmas present so that was next. A half hour and one itchy neck later, Bryan had an excellent new look. Jolene had always liked his hair in a preppy frat-boy flopover, so perhaps the short, spiky style he'd chosen was a bit of reactionary decision-making. However, his mother and her stylist swore it was perfect, and after all, if a boy can't trust his mother, who can he trust? He treated her to a late lunch as payment for the haircut and an hour later finally packed it in to go home.

He looked at his mother in the passenger seat as they drove towards home and smiled.

"You know, Mom, I'm so glad I could come back home. You guys have been awesome."

"Yep, we are, aren't we?" Elizabeth smiled at her son. "I'm glad you're home, too. We were really worried about you living so far away with no support. And then Jolene's total personality change and her disconnect-"

"Mom. Let's not go into this all over again. I'm out of there and she can't hurt me anymore."

"I know, sweetie, but you were so unhappy for so long. Your father and I couldn't stand to see you keep getting hurt. And we still can't believe that she turned out that way. She had us all fooled."

"I know, but I'm just starting to feel better again and every time I start thinking and talking about her, and us, I just get angry all over again. I'm tired of feeling bad about everything. I need to let it go already."

"I'm just not sure that you should just stuff it back inside. The divorce was only made final a month ago, you're going to need time and help. You don't have to do it on your own, sweetie. We think you should go talk to someone about it besides your brother and us." His mother reached over the console and took Bryan's free hand. "We just worry about you. You've got all this anger bottled up and it's not healthy."

"Mom, have you been watching Oprah again?" His attempt at humor fell flat.

"Bryan, you make so many jokes but we know you better than anyone. You need to talk to someone about this. You can't pretend that you're over it so quickly. You two were together for over two years. That doesn't go away in a month!" Lines of worry shaped her kind face.

"Well, to be honest, Mom, I've already had several months to get used to the idea. We tried talking to someone about it but for all that time we spent at the therapist I knew inside that it wasn't going to happen. I was already preparing myself for it. The furniture and CDs were split up before we officially were."

"Still, Bryan, a few months don't balance out two years of togetherness. And the suddenness of the situation still blows my mind, it's got to be even harder on you."

"Mom! Enough! You're stressing me out and I'm the one behind the wheel, remember? Don't piss off the driver!" He smiled but kept his eyes on the road as he navigated the narrow road that led into town. Elizabeth sighed. So close. Bryan just couldn't admit yet that the anger needed to be dealt with. Elizabeth and her husband were still in shock over what had happened to their son. Jim was taking it badly—he'd loved Jolene like the daughter they'd never had, had embraced her whole-heartedly, as they all had. Jolene was the perfect daughter-in-law; they'd all enjoyed showing her off at family gatherings. Polite, adorable, smart, and friendly. Who knew she'd turn out to be such a tramp? And a liar?

"Yes, dear. Pull in at the grocery, I need to get some bananas for Dad's breakfast."

"Hey, can we grill some steaks? I haven't had a good one in forever, and that will give him something to do."

"Sure. Sweetie?"

Bryan glanced over at his mother, raised the same eyebrow.

"Promise me you'll think about it, ok?"

Bryan didn't have to ask for clarification. He nodded reluctantly. It wasn't seeing a psychologist that bothered him; there was no shame in seeking help. He probably should have seen someone years ago when he'd battled depression in college, but he'd somehow slogged through on his own. Meeting Jolene had changed his life in so many ways, but even as happy as they'd been he'd still been depressed. 'Unfulfilled' Jolene had said. But why? He'd had everything he wanted and was still unhappy at the most basic level. Something dark had always hovered over him like a thundercloud, even in his brightest moments. Maybe now was the time to face that monster, too.

"Just let me think about it a little longer, ok? Takes me a while to get around to these things, sometimes."

"I know, Bryan. You don't have to tell me you're pigheaded." She laughed at Bryan's semi-outraged expression.

"Hey, I resemble that remark!" He laughed as they swung into the tiny parking lot at Elmington's only market. Bryan squared his shoulders and ran a slightly nervous hand through his new hair, bracing himself for the onslaught. Elizabeth hid a smile at her son's 'game face' and shook her head. Pig-headed. Trust issues. How in the world was she going to find him a nice girl that he couldn't scare off in two dates?