A/N: Final chapter! Hope you all enjoy it, thanks for reading

Chapter Twenty-Three

"What's it gonna be, Bren? Are you going to fight for us or are you going to run away as usual?" Stephen's lips pouted in indignation.

Brendan bit the inside of his cheek, undecided. What would he do: would he revert back to his former self, protect the secret he's kept locked away for years or would he sod it all and embrace his new life; his new life with the man he loves…?

Twelve hours earlier…

Brendan woke up the next morning, his head pounding. He really had far too much whiskey last night. He groaned to the depths of his soul thinking that today would be another day in hell; another day without Stephen…

But then he felt a warm body beside him and his mind flashed back to yesterday.

"I want us to start fresh, forget all the bad stuff that's happened, start again"

Brendan nodded. "Is it really that easy?"

"It can be, the way we feel about each other…not everyone gets to experience that"

Brendan sighed and smiled, trailing his fingertips across Stephen's bare arm. Stephen grinned, his eyes still closed.

"Bren…" he mumbled.

"What?" Brendan continued stroking.

"That tickles…"

"Good" Brendan said, moving further down the bed and bringing his lips in close contact with Stephen's skin, kissing gently.

Stephen moaned in pleasure. "I could get used to waking up like this"

"Oh I can make it much better than that" Brendan teased, moving underneath the covers and pulling down Stephen's pyjama bottoms.

"Brendan!" Stephen said in shock, hastily looking beneath the covers. "What are you doing?"

"Shh" Brendan soothed, taking Stephen into his mouth and making Stephen lose the ability of speech, falling back onto the pillows.

All in all, it was a good morning. Leaving Stephen open-mouthed and stunned in his bed, Brendan went for a quick shower; the hot water soothing his aching head. He re-entered the bedroom still wrapped in a towel ready to seduce the pants off of Stephen. He was stunned however to enter the room and see Stephen laying across his bed completely naked and smiling at him like he'd gotten Brendan right where he wanted him.

"This just won't do" Brendan muttered, moving towards the bed.

"No?" Stephen said, smiling. He shuffled out of Brendan's grasp. "You'll have to come get me, if you want me" Stephen teased.

Brendan growled deep in his throat and leapt onto the bed. Stephen moved out of the way, laughing. Unfortunately for him however he couldn't get very far in such a small space and inevitably Brendan found himself straddling Stephen, his good arm pinned above his head. He smirked at him triumphantly.

"Caught yer"

"So you have" Stephen smiled up at him seductively.

After showing Stephen exactly what he thought of his little seduction, Brendan started to dress himself. Stephen lay underneath the covers, shirtless and grinning from ear to ear.

"Aw, do you have to go?" He groaned, batting his ridiculously long eyelashes in Brendan's direction like some kind of woman.

"That isn't going to work, Stephen" Brendan told him, pulling on his socks.

Stephen moved to the end of the bed where Brendan was sitting in his boxers. He put an arm around his waist and leant forwards to kiss his neck.

"Will this work?" Stephen kissed all the way down his neck, making Brendan shiver.

"Stephen…" he warned.

"Okay, okay" Stephen pulled back. Brendan moved off the bed to put his trousers on. He was wearing his grey suit today with his red shirt. "I love that shirt" Stephen commented, tilting his head to the side.

"Oh ye?" Brendan moved to put his shoes on.

"Yeah… you're so damn sexy, Brendan Brady"

Brendan raised his eyebrows. "Someone's getting confident. Ye aren't so bad yourself, Stephen Hay" Brendan smiled at him. "I really must go"

"Fine" Stephen said sulkily, moving out of the bed. "I'll let myself out, shall I?"

"Don't be like that, Stephen. I'd much rather spend the day in bed with ye, ye know that"

"I just thought today we could go out somewhere together, you know, our first outing as a couple" Stephen sighed, trying and failing to hide his disappointment.

Brendan stiffened at his words. "Our first outing?" He said, unsuccessfully hiding the alarm in his tone.

Stephen looked up, his eyes narrowing. "Yes, Brendan…what did you think I meant when I said a fresh start? No more hiding, no more secrets. I want everyone to know we're together"

"Is that really necessary?"

"Yes! We don't want people thinking we're straight, do we? And trying it on with either of us"

"Not straight…ye…okay" Brendan ran a hand through his hair nervously.

Stephen looked at him in amazement. "You still aren't ready to come out, are you?" He asked incredulously.

"It's not that, Stephen. I just don't see why we have to shout it from the rooftops, that's all"

"Because I want people to know about us! I for one am not ashamed for people to know that I'm with you"

"For the last time, Stephen I'm not ashamed of ye. I just didn't expect it all to happen so fast…"

"What did you think would happen? We'd carry on behind closed doors for the next few months, years even? I can't live like that, Brendan"

Brendan didn't answer. Apparently that was all the confirmation Stephen needed. He started putting his clothes on, fumbling slightly with his shirt due to his still broken arm. Brendan reached out a hand to help him but Stephen jerked out of his touch.

"Come back to me when you're ready to make a commitment" He fumed, making his way towards the bedroom door. Brendan stood in front of it, blocking his exit. "Brendan, move"

"No" Brendan said calmly, bringing his forehead to rest on Stephen's. "Don't leave like this, please" he said gently, stroking Stephen's cheek. Stephen wavered for a minute.

"Okay" he said, calmer now. "But I need you to show me that you're serious about us being together"

"Ye, okay. I can do that" Brendan reasoned.

"Good, I'll see you later at the club, yeah?"

"Ye…" Brendan moved out of the way of the door. He hesitated before he let Stephen leave. "One last thing, Stephen"

Stephen braced himself as though he didn't know what to expect. Brendan surprised him it seemed by pulling him towards him and wrapping his arms around him in an embrace. Stephen buried his face in Brendan's chest, sighing. Brendan tightened his hold on him.

"I don't want to risk losing ye again, Stephen" he whispered softly.

"You won't. I just need some…reassurance that you're serious about us"

"Ye, I know. I get that" Brendan pulled away. "I'll see ye later then"

Stephen reached up and kissed Brendan's lips softly before smiling and walking out of the room. Brendan sighed, frustrated. What was he going to do now?


Brendan walked into work, deep in thought. Stephen had given him a lot to think about. He almost didn't notice Mitzeee sitting by the bar until she spoke to him.

"Brendan" she said, smiling at him. She looked a lot better than she had the last time Brendan had seen her.

"Mitzeee" he acknowledged, moving behind the bar. "How are things?" He asked, pouring himself a drink.

"Great. The work's dried up a bit though, without a manager and everything" her eyes twinkled.

"Hm, ye. Shame" Brendan said indifferently, downing a glass of whiskey.

"Bit early isn't it?" Mitzeee asked, frowning.

"Well I've got a lot on my mind" Brendan sighed.

"Ste?" Mitzeee asked.

Brendan closed his eyes, pinching the space between them. "Is it that obvious?"

"I just know how your mind works"

"Oh do ye now?" Brendan raised his eyebrows, pouring himself another drink. "Ye don't know me half as well as ye think, Mitzeee". He moved to grab his glass but Mitzeee put a hand on his arm to stop him.

"Tell me what's wrong. You don't need that"

Brendan looked at her suspiciously. "Why do you care?"

"Come off it, Brendan. Do you really think a girl like me would pine forever? Over a gay man no less. No, I've moved on, love and I think it's about time you did too"

Brendan gave her a strange look. "Are ye suggesting I move on from Stephen?"

"No. I'm suggesting you move on with him; it's about time you two came out as a proper couple"

"Funny, that's what he said"

"Great minds think alike" Mitzeee said, smiling. "But listen, you can't stay locked in that closet forever. What good will it do? You'll just be alone, bitter, old…"

"Ye, alright" Brendan cut her off, annoyed. "Yer point?"

"My point is" Mitzeee began, her voice soft. "It's fairly obvious to everyone except you apparently that you love Ste and want to be with him. You can't tell me that after his accident you didn't reassess the whole situation?" Mitzeee arched her eyebrows.

Brendan was silent.

"Exactly" Mitzeee said smugly. "Now if I were you, I'd go get my man and to hell with anyone who bats an eyelid. You're Brendan Brady; no one's going to mess with you" Mitzeee nodded as though this solved everything.

"I hate to say it, but she has a point" Cheryl strolled in then, smiling apologetically.

"How long have ye been listening?" Brendan asked, feeling as though the world was ganging up on him today.

"Not long" Cheryl said, sitting beside Mitzeee. "She is right you know. If Ste wants you to come out properly, you've gotta do it, Bren"

"It's not that simple" Brendan didn't like people telling him what he should or shouldn't do; it made him feel like a caged animal.

"Okay try this then" Mitzeee reasoned, waving a perfectly manicured hand in the air. "When Ste comes to you and asks you if you're ready for this, instead of focusing on the fear you feel about it all, I want you to just look at him. I want you to look into his eyes and imagine what life would be like without him, or even what life was like before him. And I'm pretty sure you'll come to the right decision"

"Oh ye?" Brendan said, hating to admit to the fact that Mitzeee was talking sense for a change.

"Yes, and you know I'm right. I'm just brilliant that way" She tossed her long brown hair back, Cheryl got a good deal of it in her face but she chose to ignore it today.

"What are you gonna do then, love?" Cheryl asked, putting a hand on Brendan's arm.

"Well, apparently I have to wait until the moment comes" Brendan said, nodding in Mitzeee's direction and sounding sceptical. "So we'll see"


Ste opened his front door and was immediately bombarded with a furious Amy.

"Where have you been? I was worried sick!" She fumed before he'd even taken his coat off.

"I'm sorry! I know I should have called but I got a bit…distracted" Ste felt himself smile.

Amy's eyebrows rose. "By whom may I ask?"

"Who do you think?"

"Judging by that little smile of yours, I'm going to go with Brendan"

"You can tell just by my smile?"

Amy smiled at him, rolling her eyes. "I can always tell. You have a little smile that you get that is only reserved for Brendan"

"I do?" Ste asked, embarrassed.

"Yes, you do" Amy replied, moving into the kitchen. Ste followed her.

"I have some news actually…about me and Brendan"

"Oh yeah?" Amy said, starting on the washing up.

"I've told him that I want to come out as a proper couple, he's considering it as we speak" Ste took a deep breath; he had a good feeling about this overall.

Amy looked deeply surprised. "Wow, Ste, what do you think he'll say?"

"I'm hoping yes" Ste replied, straightening his posture.

"You really love him, don't you?" Amy asked.

"Very much" Ste agreed.

"And he loves you?"

"I bloody hope so" Ste laughed to ease some of the tension he felt in his chest at the uncertainty of the whole thing.

Amy seemed to sense his anguish and laid a comforting hand on his shoulder.

"I'm sure it'll all work out, Ste. Why don't I run you a nice bath and you can get yourself all dressed up for tonight" Amy smiled at him reassuringly.

Ste smirked at her. "Get dressed up? Do I own any 'dressing up' clothes?"

Amy pondered this for a minute, frowning. "You have your bath, I'll see what I can find" her eyes twinkled at the challenge of this.


It was eight o'clock in the evening and Stephen still hadn't arrived yet. It was his night off tonight but he had specifically told Brendan he would be in later to hear his answer. Brendan was nervous; his fingers drumming against the table in agitation. Cheryl kept glancing over at him giving him reassuring smiles which he couldn't possibly return. Tonight was the night when everything changed; Brendan could feel it in his bones.

Tonight he would either lose Stephen forever; because really the lad couldn't possibly withstand any more rejection; or he would have to come out and say who he really was; an idea which terrified him more than anything had ever done in his entire life.

Brendan glanced at his watch for about the hundredth time. He nearly went to pour himself a drink but he didn't think Stephen would appreciate it if he met him slightly sloshed. Brendan glanced towards the stairs and finally saw Stephen walking up them. Brendan's anxiety disappeared for a moment while he appreciated Stephen. He had made a real effort tonight; he was wearing a smart, dark blue shirt with long sleeves and a pair of dark jeans. His hair was styled in that way Brendan always liked but not too styled that he wasn't able to run his fingers through it.

Stephen started walking towards him and Brendan couldn't even pretend to be indifferent to his presence in public for a change. He immediately went towards him, gripping his arm gently.

"Ye late" he said brusquely, his eyes devouring Stephen's impressive form.

Stephen smirked, obviously flattered by Brendan's attention. "I'm just on time actually" he said, placing a hand on Brendan's hand on his arm.

Brendan stiffened a moment at the contact but did not move his hand away. Stephen smiled at him and took a deep breath as though physically preparing himself for battle.

"What's it gonna be, Bren? Are you going to fight for us or are you going to run away as usual?" Stephen's lips pouted in indignation.

Brendan bit the inside of his cheek, undecided. What would he do: would he revert back to his former self, protect the secret he's kept locked away for years or would he sod it all and embrace his new life; his new life with the man he loves…?

Strangely Brendan found himself thinking back to Mitzeee's earlier advice. He looked at Stephen fully, really engaging him in his mind. He blocked out all other sounds; the club, the people, everything except Stephen. He thought back to when they had first met and how badly that had gone; Brendan using his fists as usual. But Stephen had been a cheeky git; he still was but Brendan kind of liked it.

He remembered feeling intrigued by him; drawn into his awkward manner and the way he challenged Brendan no matter how many times he threatened him. Brendan recalled manipulating the situation so that he could get Stephen alone at his flat; how he'd flirted and tested Stephen's feelings for him, resulting in a kiss Brendan hadn't even instigated. That next day in the cellar had been so passionate; Brendan couldn't remember ever having such a fervent experience with any one else in his entire life.

His mind drifted to happier times; sleeping in bed together after a thorough sex session, all the times they had kissed, soft and gentle, wild and rough. All the bad times… the beatings, the brush-off's, the interferences; but Stephen always came back for more and Brendan still couldn't work out why. He would have to ask Stephen one day; he wanted to hear the whole story from his perspective.

Brendan looked at him, his eyes softening. There was a certain appeal to Stephen; besides his obvious pleasing appearance. He had a good heart; he'd learnt from his mistakes and was constantly striving to be a better man. Brendan envied him for it; even though he was older and probably more world-wise than Stephen was, he felt that he had a lot to learn from him. He was so open, so honest about his feelings that it was like a breath of fresh air to Brendan who had been brought up to believe that his feelings were better kept to himself; sentiment was for women, not men.

But as Brendan looked at Stephen and considered everything they had been through together, everything he had done for him, he began to wonder what had stopped him from doing this in the first place. Who could tell him that he wasn't a man? Who could tell him that this was wrong? He was Brendan Brady; he didn't answer to any one. Resolved, somewhat smug at the confusion and uncertainty in Stephen's face, Brendan gave him his answer; not through words…Brendan was clearly a man of action.

He put two hands either side of Stephen's face, stunning him for a moment. He brought him towards him, not too roughly, and kissed him on the lips, in front of the entire club. Stephen was too surprised to react at first but then Brendan felt him responding, his mouth opening to allow Brendan entry; his tongue coaxing Stephen's own, reassuring him that this was okay, he was okay.

When he pulled back, Brendan found that no one had really paid any attention to them. The world hadn't stopped turning, Brendan was still intact, still fundamentally himself. Stephen was looking at him; his eyes shining with tears of what Brendan hoped were happiness. His smile was breathtaking, it gave Brendan that last push he so desperately needed.

"I love you" he said simply. After all this time it came so easily to his lips that he could say it a thousand times and never tire from it. "I love ye, Stephen Hay" he said again, his roguish charm more prominent this time.

Stephen was speechless, still clasped in Brendan's grip.

"You bastard" he finally said, laughing with relief. "You make me wait all this time and yet I can't be angry at you for it because it feels so good to hear you say it" Stephen breathed, grinning at him.

"Well then, Stephen. I shall say it again: I love ye, always will do as well, so ye can think again if ye plan on leaving me"

"Never" Stephen said, resting his forehead on Brendan's. "I love you, Brendan Brady, you insatiable, insufferable, phenomenal man, and that's never going to change" Stephen promised, kissing Brendan softly on the lips, reaffirming everything.

"Too fucking right" Brendan replied, smirking. He drew apart from Stephen and offered his hand to him which Stephen took gladly. "Let's go for a walk, I don't know about ye but I need some air, it's been pretty dank in this closest" Brendan quirked his eyebrows, making Stephen laugh happily.

Walking out of the club together hand in hand, Brendan thought to himself that in the end there was nothing to really be afraid of; not when he had Stephen by his side, where he belonged.