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[Commentary] Should've Been Home Yesterday

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Leah: when did you realize that this idea was moving from "haha what if nolan held a sheep" to you writing in our 20k planning doc, "the longest tk/pat fic is only 60 so i think it would be fun to beat that" lmao. and like, do you think there's an alternate universe where we / you could have written a short fluffy little farm fic (and if so what would you zoom in on?), or was it always going to be a big thing?

 

Honestly, I don’t know when that happened, or if there was a specific moment. I’ve always loved longfic, but I don’t think I consciously thought about the length until we already had a pretty damn long planning doc. And then, I think once it had come up, I just never tried to keep stuff short? As long as the pace is good, length is happening on its own lol

I think there are a lot of alternate universes: There’s definitely one where this was just the short, funny story it started out as, but I think maybe that universe is one where I don’t feel as strongly about the setting, where so much of my history and my dreams don’t connect so deeply to a place like this. I don’t think the me of this universe was ever capable of keeping this short and light. Didn’t really realize that until we were in it, though 😅

 

Leah: there are so many lines in this that i can't tell who wrote, but this one feels so you to me (omg now i'm worried you didn't write it?? but i'm like, positive you did). i think our writing is similar at times, but one way i think we differ a little (idk, maybe you disagree, and actually, as another question, i'd be really interested to hear if you have ideas on how our writing is different from each others' and then how it works together?) is that you are really good at knowing when to switch up the very conversational internal monologue that we usually do, and to write these more intense and poetic and heavy moments, that really contrast with the rest of the narrative and stop you in your tracks for a second. if that makes sense? like, another example is the flashback scene with law in the truck. and, idk, i'm just curious if that's intentional or something you've noticed? do you have certain writers / fandoms /etc that have particularly influenced your style? and also, what are your favorite elements of your writing? (re: “He’d left the second he got the chance; pretended he didn’t miss it every day since.)

 

I did write this line! I also have a lot of lines looking back that I can’t remember the original author of, even ones I know we didn’t really touch in editing.

I do think our writing is pretty similar! I think that’s something that drew me to RftS and made me feel confident in beginning this story with you: I could see it playing out in your voice before we even started.

I appreciate the compliment!! I think that (punctuating the casual conversational with the big and poignant moments) is something I am good at, but it both is and isn’t something I actively try to do? I dunno, like. I think those moments are more about taking the ordinary and making it profound, than about anything inherently special about them. It’s kind of.... (trying to find the right visual here) It’s kind of like playing tetris with feelings: slotting words together in the right shapes and orders to take a pretty normal thing and make it give you the exact right amount of feeling at the exact right time.
The thing is, I wouldn’t say that I put a ton of effort into this in writing fiction. I’m pretty practiced at this point, because I do this with my word choices all the time, at work, at home, etc. I honestly think it’s somewhat of an anxiety thing for me. I have this deep and fearful need for people to understand what I’m trying to tell them. 😅

As far as influences for my style:
I think there was a turning point in my brain when I read The Raven Cycle, and then again when I read The Scorpio Races. The way Maggie Stiefvater uses words was just revolutionary to me.
Next up, I think is Andrew McMahon? From Something Corporate to Jack’s Mannequin to Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness, his lyrics have always found a way to catch me in their emotion and atmosphere.
I should also say that my voice in this story is primarily just the way I think and talk, which is heavily influenced by the communities I’m part of, particularly online, and by my partners. I think there’s a certain creativity to thinking that grows when you let yourself and others just unabashedly say weird shit and be goofy.

 

Leah: i'm really curious about a couple things about like your relationship with writing in general. like, how did you get from the, "i'm not sure how much of the writing i'm comfortable doing" space to now, where you're writing at least half? are there things still that you're more comfortable writing and things you're less comfortable with?

 

Oh, man, yeah I don’t know when or how that happened. I tried to write fic once or twice several years ago, and it was all very bland and soulless. I realize now that I didn’t play to my strengths at all. I’m good at feeling and introspection, and I’m not great at action. I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to create and move through plot. I needed a little hand-holding lol. I still don’t think I’m great at action, but I’m more confident that I can at least attempt it and then piece together the decent stuff later.

 

hackysack: please tell me all about the goats!!! i'm also very interested in the vibes of the farm and the small town, where you drew your inspiration and how the whole place came together.

 

The goats! Okay, to be honest with you here, I don’t actually have a ton of experience with goats? When I was a small child we had a singular billygoat named Skipper. We didn’t get him dehorned though, so when we got a pasture all fenced out and brought my pony over from where we’d boarded her before, my dad sold him to a family down the road as a safety precaution. We also had two old nanny goats, (Ba)Nana and Cocoa. They just................. grazed in a pasture............. kept the pony company............. stole her grain. That’s it lmao!
I do dream of having goats though! Idk what kind, but this little farm Nolan and Kevin start up is kind of my dream and is heavily inspired by a little queer goat and sheep farm in Georgia! You can find them on insta at @crookedcreekfarmanddairy, although they don’t have wifi, so updates are irregular.

I’ve been so, so lucky (and I am so, so thankful) that Leah has let me run pretty much wild with (and project literally SO much on) this story. The town and Flying G’s are both formed out of the place I grew up, a 500-person town and the local businesses and people. The setting of the farm is more of a mashup between the 30 acres I grew up on in the Piedmont region of Georgia and some reference images and memories from the Blue Ridge Mountains.

The general vibe is: Community. This is a place tied together by its people through time, for better or worse. The townspeople are far from perfect, but the ones this story is populated by care deeply for the place and each other. This is a hopeful story that toes the line between “small towns are difficult for queer people” and “queer stories don’t have to be super good or super bad.” This is a story about what I want.

Chapter Text

Nolan wakes up every ten minutes from a different nightmare--the barn burning down, getting lost in the woods behind the field, a fucking plague melting all the little potatoes and strawberries Kevin planted--and then, when the sky outside his window goes from black to grey, he gets out of bed.

What an atmospheric opening! All credit to Leah for this one -- it’s gorgeous.
There used to be an additional nightmare in here that was sillier: tiny dinosaurs stomping the crops. We both loved it, but tonally, it didn’t fit.

 

Nolan rakes a hand through his hair and shakes out a breath. He wants to be asleep. He wants to wake Kevin up so Kevin can look at him and know he’s feeling fucked up and cook him bacon and talk about stupid shit until Nolan’s barely feeling the tension in his shoulders and the headache he has from clenching his teeth all night. 

Right before we hit post on this first chapter, I had a bit of a panic. I’d never published fic before, especially not something I’m as invested in as this. I called a friend and read them the chapter, and it was around this point that my voice tried to break and I could hear the anxiety coming through. Fortunately for me, it was kind of perfectly timed to Nolan’s anxiety.

 

He considers the options he does have. The floorboards a few feet over at the top of the stairs might creak loud enough to wake Kevin up, but only if Nolan tries, like, kinda hard. 

Nolan Patrick, Brat Extraordinaire! I liked the idea of playing this line in a way that you’d usually expect the character to be avoiding this, but he actually really wants to do it. I don’t think he’d manage to wake Kev, but if he did, Kev would absolutely know Nolan did it on purpose.

 

Beyond Kevin’s grandfather’s garden--Kevin’s now, Nolan corrects himself--the big field is surrounded by an aging wooden fence. It doesn’t really keep anything out or in: Nolan had stepped through at least three separate rotted out gaps when he hiked out to dig through the little sheds dotting the back of the field, maybe as old as the house and definitely less cared for. He can see the crooked, dark shapes of the sheds from here, against a sky that’s still mostly grey with just a little glow of orange right by the horizon. 

"Definitely less cared for." Are we talking about the sheds or the fence? Yes.

 

It’s excruciating. Like, it takes for ever-- just slowly lightening, the orange spreading out and getting watered down to yellow, the sky above it still purpley grey. 

I am in LOVE with this scene! The absolute mental anguish necessary to be THIS miserable in such a beautiful moment? I literally could never. And yet, it’s so shockingly relatable just how badly he wants time to be ticking forward and how horrifically slowly it seems to be moving. Leah did an outstanding job with this moment, and it’s, so far, one of my favorites.

 

He forces his eyes to skip over the field that’s, like, exclusively weeds, and glares instead at the faint edge of the mountains. Watches as the sky lightens all over and the strip of color at the horizon gets brighter, yellow and pink, and fades again. Then, finally, the little white ball of the sun starts to slip up over the mountaintops in the distance.

“and fades again.” I don’t know what’s so awe-inspiring about that phrase for me, but I fell in love with it immediately. I actually started my playlist for this fic after reading that line, because I just felt like it was meant to be a title.

Also, during edits, we considered changing the word "ball" here in "the little white ball of the sun," but honestly I really love how unusual it is in this context. I think having these weird word choices builds the voice that Leah and I are going for with this story.

 

Just like last time, there’s no way it’s gonna work out how Nolan wants it to. 

There’s no way he’s gonna get to keep this--land stretched out in front of him, sun slowly rising, feeling like he’s the only one in the world who’s watching this moment unfold. A town that’s sleepy and slow and quiet and calm.

He’s supposed to have moved on from wanting this kind of thing. 

I think the last three paragraphs came up multiple times when we were workshopping summaries, and then when we went back to change the summary a few chapters in. I think this section is stunning and would make a killer summary, but it was really important to me that we didn’t spoil the landing of this emotional moment.

Nolan spends the first 957 words of this story miserable. Sad, anxious, so frightened of his own decisions that he can’t even enjoy a foggy sunrise with the Blue Ridge Mountains in the distance. At the very end of that, he begins to think of this place and what, specifically, he dislikes about it.

And then. And then, we get to see that what hurts him the most is that he doesn’t know how to want it. He doesn’t know how to navigate loving a place that didn’t love him back when he needed it. This is a very personal moment for me, and it took a fair bit of finagling to make sure it hit right.

There was also a line that I believe initially was written in a comment as we figured this section out that we’re still trying to find the right place for in the story.

 

They’ll pack up, and move back to another high rise in downtown Philadelphia, and Nolan will beg for his job back, and they’ll probably fucking give it to him. Kevin’s cousin will sell this place, and someone who actually knows how to turn it back into a farm will buy it.

“Kevin’s cousin” was a throwaway line, but now that the Tkachuks are part of this universe, it’s Keith. In my head, their farm is on the other side of town. Keith didn’t want to take over farmland across town that’s primarily set up for livestock. None of the kids really wanted it either, so they all said no. Eventually it passed to Kevin. I imagine the whole family was pretty shocked when he said he wanted it.

 

Kevin stretches his legs out in front of him and tilts his head toward the sky. Nolan turns back to it, tries to soak it in as much as he can. When his phone sings the last soft notes of the playlist he'd put on earlier, Nolan lets the silence stretch around them. He and Kevin listen to the quiet sounds of the morning until it's all the way light out. 

We talked about whether this was nicer with the music or without. Personally, I’d probably have music playing. Compromise, though: Nolan doesn’t have the playlist on repeat, so when it stops, he doesn’t bother to turn more music on.

 

They moved to the farm the second week of February.

It was maybe five degrees warmer than it had been in Philly, but it still felt way too cold to be getting ready to start growing anything; still felt freezing when they had to be outside all fucking day. 

Picture me, googling average early February temperatures in Philly and in the areas of Virginia we’d vaguely decided to set this in. I think Roanoke is my usual google location. I spent a lot of time in the planning phase trawling google maps, and kind of falling in love with the area between Roanoke and Danville. There’s a town near there called Horse Pasture. I want to visit.

 

Nolan spent a week shivering inside his denim jacket and refusing to wear the huge, ugly brown Carhartt, but all he got for that was a runny nose and Kevin laughing at him. 

Carhartt brown is ugly. You cannot convince me otherwise.

 

The back of the property was lined with forest, and then, in the distance, a low line of mountains--not like the four whole mountains he’d grown up knowing were in Manitoba, but an actual range. The land the farm was on sloped and rolled in little hills and shallow valleys, too, and in one of the dips up by the house there was a pond that looked maybe big enough to have a few fish, but was icy around the edges, so Nolan hadn’t bothered to check it out yet. All the way in the back, where their big pasture bled into the woods, a tiny creek cut across a corner of the property.

I spent literally so much of my time from probably 8 to 15 wandering around the back of the 30 acres I grew up on. There is nothing more perfect to me than a copse of untended pine trees and a creek. Literally nothing.

People who know me will be entirely unsurprised to find out how long I spent plotting out how much land they have, how it’s divided up, what’s on it. I felt a little ridiculous at times, but I think there are a lot of little details that didn’t necessarily need to be right, but would have an effect on the story if they were:
How much livestock could they reasonably keep? How much space does Kevin have for a garden? Is there unused land at the back? Could they grow hay for feeding supplementation in a spare field? What is the perimeter of a 20 acre plot of land anyway?

I want this story to feel real to people who have never experienced anything like this AND to people who have.

 

He was a bitch to Kevin at dinner, but Kevin just rolled with it, always too nice and easy. 

I think if we could go back, I’d expand on this a bit. Show, not tell. I like how matter-of-fact Nolan is about being bitchy, but it feels more like a bullet point than a moment.

 

It was, like, embarrassing, even if Kevin was the only one around for miles and he was probably neck deep in his fucking dirt he was so in love with and didn’t even notice Nolan being useless. 

This is probably one of the first blatant moments of unreliable narration from Nolan. He’s usually pretty self-aware, even and especially when he’s being shitty, but he just doesn’t know how to step outside of his anxiety sometimes.

 

Him and Kevin had just barely dug into one shed right up by the house when they first got here, just enough to pull out shovels and a wheelbarrow and shit, but there were three more unopened ones tucked in the back of the field, right up under the trees that filled up the last third of the land. 

As we’ve figured out Nolan and TK’s voices in this story, we’ve settled, both consciously and unconsciously, on some stylistic choices. I think I’d change “Him and Kevin” here to “He and Kevin.” TK gets to keep a few more technically-incorrect phrases than Nolan does, and this is one of them. They both get to interject “like” but Nolan gets to do it more.

 

Nolan heaved a sigh, kicked at a barely inflated tire of the trailer, and started to dig through the, like, sixty years of farm junk piled up all over in the shed--rusty tools, weird old glass plates, a stack of wood that seemed like maybe the same type the fence was made of, and a fucking scythe.

I want a scythe so bad.

 

But it was rusty and dangerous looking and heavy, and by the time Nolan finished sorting all the shit inside the shed into totally useless piles--stuff he didn’t know what to do with, stuff he didn’t even know the name of, stuff that didn’t seem like it belonged in a farm shed but what did he know--it was already getting dark out, and the iron smell of all the old tools was giving him a headache, so Nolan left it for another day and trudged back up to the house, feeling like he’d wasted more than just the last several hours. 

I don’t remember who wrote the categories of items here, but I laugh every time I read them. What a way to sort, Nolan.

 

Nolan thought he was pretty decent at getting up and slogging through the same bullshit day after day. He had to be, with all the practice he’d gotten in his three years at his last job in Philly, writing press release after boring press release about all the shit he’d rather be doing himself. 

There’s a decent little backstory here. I dunno if we’ll ever get into it in the actual story.

 

Nolan lapped past the shed again, and thought about the scythe instead. Right as he swung back up toward the house, his watch buzzed an alert at him, marking the end of his three miles.

He lapped the shed again; lapped it again.

When we went into this project, neither of us were sure if I’d do any actual writing or how much. I think this was the first scene I started on my own. It’s not the one I loved best, even then, but this moment of being unable to get the scythe out of his mind was one of the first where I felt like I’d really gotten into Nolan’s head as I wrote.

 

The scythe’s blade was kinda rusty and maybe a little dull, but when Nolan pressed it into a broken bit of fence, it still left a mark in the wood. There were two little handles on the big, weirdly curved post the blade was attached to, and when he tried to hold it kind of like he would a hockey stick, Nolan realized with a sinking feeling that he may have known less about scythes than he did about fences.

Two things:

  1. Pressing the blade into the fence always makes me think of pressing a finger into sunburn and then watching the skin go pink again after (except of course, the wood doesn’t spring back like that).
  2. There are different styles of scythes and the one here is an American style scythe.

 

Nolan had been following Kevin’s lead with the whole “move to the country” thing the same way he’d been doing ever since he answered Kevin’s fucking "need a roommate - im a good cook" craigslist ad two years ago. 

But when Kevin’s grandma died and then his parents and every one of his aunts and uncles gradually said no to taking over the farm until finally it fell to him, Nolan should’ve known better than to get caught up in looking over Kevin’s shoulder as he pulled up the place on Google Streetview--classic white farmhouse, unpainted picket fence by the road and along the gravel driveway, tiny pond off to one side. 

He shouldn’t have let himself start thinking, looks like home but not. 

Ahh, here we are: the original summary. Not a bad one and perfect for the first chapter.
We were never 100% sold on it though (too much Kevin, not enough TK), so the plan was always to re-evaluate a few chapters in for a new summary.

 

But by the end of March, with Kevin all creepily focused on the tiny little sprouts of his plants, Nolan was feeling just as lost out here in the country. Almost feeling like he’d rather be in the city, buildings towered up around him, trapped and claustrophobic, than out here in the middle of nowhere; unmoored and with no idea how to do anything.  

The first scene of the next chapter was mostly written when this got posted. It almost got included in this chapter, actually. But what’s more fun than leaving your characters emotionally vulnerable?

Chapter Text

When the sky has turned fully blue, Kevin gives Nolan a long, assessing look, then goes inside the house and comes out ten minutes later with a plate of toast and sausage and steaming mugs of hot chocolate. They eat side by side in their camp chairs, Kevin probably admiring all the work he's done on the gardens out in front of them and Nolan just glaring across the pasture, at the side of that fucking shed. 

 

This scene quietly establishes a LOT of Kevin and Nolan’s relationship, in my opinion.

 

When he actually tunes in to Kevin’s words, he can just barely make out his voice, softer than usual, from across the yard: “Now you don’t have to lay on the ground. Isn’t that nice?” He wraps a tiny green stem delicately around a string as he says, “Climb up here. There you go!”

 

Back in college, I worked for the Theatre department’s scene shop for a while. One of the grads would talk to set pieces while she was mixing up paints for them, and she’d say stuff like “These guys are ready for their base coat.” I think I picked up talking to inanimate objects at least partially from her. It was always so endearing.

 

There’s a fucking overwhelming amount of cheerful little homesteading blogs and more intense, research-y articles. Nolan rubs his head, turns the brightness down on his screen, and finally settles on a series of youtube videos of this hot guy with a southern accent sitting in a field full of goats and talking about, like, the fat percentages in the milk of different breeds and how high fences need to be to keep foxes from getting in and eating the kids and how to keep track of which goats are the best moms.

 

Leah wrote this paragraph, and I went 👀 link please?
Unfortunately, dear readers, there is no link. The hot southern goat farmer is made up.

 

He ends up on a site called Scythe Supply, and he learns that he was using the rusty old scythe he found in the shed as wrong as fucking possible, and that it was totally the wrong size for him. 

 

Yes, Scythe Supply is a real website. Yes, I did know about it before this fic was even an idea. Yes, I do have multiple friends who’ve purchased scythes from them.

 

Considering that every single trip into town and every day out here makes Nolan have more and more nightmares about all their money running out and them having to move back to Philly and get real jobs again; having to tell Kevin’s mom and dad that the farm that’s been in their family for generations is getting sold off because they can’t afford to keep shelling out money on land that’s not making any, and how fucking embarrassing would all of that be, and--. He decides buying a scythe was a stupid fucking idea.

 

We had a whole conversation here about, like, property taxes.

 

Now that he's got half an idea of what questions he needs answered, Nolan reads through a handful of blog posts that talk about the best goat breeds for different uses. The last link he clicks on is this bizarrely peppy article on the legality of selling unprocessed milk at farmer's markets, which is so far from what Nolan is prepared to deal with that he scratches a whole list of dairy breeds right off his notes and closes, like, five tabs in his browser.

 

There was a little shop out where I live now that got shut down for selling unpasteurized products. It was a whole thing. I don’t even want to think about trying to sell milk.

 

“Baby cat !” Kevin’s voice booms, the back door slamming behind him. Nolan jumps and colorful little dots spark behind his eyelids before he drops his hands. He hears Kevin stomp mud off his boots for half a second before his heavy footsteps continue down the hall and into the living room.

He’s breathing heavy, grinning huge, pulling a toque off and leaving his hair crazy. 

“Look,” he pants, “at what the fuck I found.” 

Nolan takes another second to stare judgily at Kevin, and then he looks down to his hand, where he’s holding a small, awful, wood framed painting of a perfectly rectangular, white cat. Its body is fucking huge and its head and legs are super tiny, but its little face is clearly glaring, teeth bared, at the viewer. 

 

I LOVE the baby cat nickname and I just about screamed when Leah wrote this bit. It’s SO him and the exact kind of farm kitsch that I’d expect in an old place like this.

 

“Dude, stop fucking around," he says, trying simultaneously to bite down on his smile and change the subject. "We need shit from the store.” 

“Oh I’m fucking around?” Kevin says happily, eyes all bright, “What the fuck were you doing in those sheds for a whole day last week, they still look like shit! If you want goat stuff you gotta come with me and meet the locals, bud.”

 

There’s been so! much! tenderness so far! And I love it! But it was so refreshing to finally get to the bit where they tease each other.

 

Kevin pulls his car off the road onto a wide gravel lot and parks alongside one of those signs that's backlit and has swappable letters. It reads: "FLYING G`S FARM SUPPLY".

There's a long, low building that has bags of soil and fertilizer--Nolan recognizes those fuckers by this point--stacked on wooden pallets against the front wall. Off to the side are big rolls of wire fencing and a few sizes of sturdy metal gates leaning on a wall.

 

I grew up in and out of places like this. When SBHY was still just a very, very vague idea, I went by a local store for Carhartt overalls, and I sat in my car and DMed Leah something along the lines of “what if one of them works in a little farm shop. claude owns it. Flying G’s Farm Supply”

And thus this exact story was actually born.

 

Instead of following, Nolan sits for a minute, trying to think --what does he need, how are they gonna get it home, is any of this worth the money, is some farmer gonna ask him a question he doesn’t know the answer to? None of his thoughts actually even process, and he’s left feeling out of breath and like some invisible timer is ticking down and he still doesn’t have any answers. He sighs and taps into the list he'd typed into his phone.

 

You ever feel like your brain is a library where you know the books are there but you can’t find them? All the shelves are empty and the librarians are missing and you can’t even get the computer turned on to look up where something should be?
No? Just me? Well, now it’s Nolan too.

 

Back in grade school, Nolan knew this kid whose dad owned a local hardware store, and Nolan had literally never seen the man without a cowboy hat and suspenders. He's been trying, ever since Kevin told him about this place, to picture the kind of woman that marries a man who's perpetually in a cowboy hat and suspenders.

 

I do, in fact, know this man. I did, in fact, go to school with his son. I had forgotten all about him until I asked my dad to text me pictures of the feed store on his next visit. This man is in the background (he owns the place) and I about lost my shit laughing when I saw him.

 

Nolan is absolutely not expecting the woman sitting behind the counter to be five years older than Nolan, max, with blonde hair spilling over her shoulder in a loose braid and wearing a soft-looking sweater and overalls with little embroidered flowers all over. 

He's, like. Staring, and probably fucking blushing, which is a hilariously wrong first impression, he thinks, kind of blankly.

 

Nolan: Someone’s gonna think I’m into her.
Nolan: No, I just want her whole outfit and vibe.

 

The counter splits it into two halves. The whole space is well-lit and well-organized in a cozy but neat style that seems more Instagram than farm supply store, but still somehow feels homey. On one side, the space is full of pallets stacked with bags of horse and cow and chicken feed, and shelves filled with all kinds of tools and farm shit. The other side of the shop has racks of coats and heavy-duty jumpsuits under a hanging sign that declares them all “Authentic Carhartt Brand”. Nolan spots this black denim jacket that looks like it's got matching black fleece in the collar, and he is gonna have words with Kevin later for buying him the ugly brown coat instead of that. A few rows of chunky boots line the far wall, too, under a corkboard full of little handwritten notices and what look like classified ads.

 

Exposition! But also:
There are so many things in this scene that get just established enough to take root in this world and may come back up later. This shop is a complex little piece of the community, and I love that.

 

The ginger guy is laughing at a story about one of Kevin's grandma's recipes that he'd tried to make last week. Kevin tells him how Nolan had taken one bite and flat out refused to eat more, his voice all noisy and warm and fake hurt as he says, “Patty threw it in the trash after all my hard work, I was heartbroken.” 

 

The way Kevin has already become friends with G and Ryanne here warms my heart so fucking much. He’s talked about Nolan before! They already know this is Kevin being funny, not genuinely hurt, even though his cooking is something meaningful to him!

 

The guy catches his breath and asks, "When are you gonna let us meet Patty, man? Bring your girl in next time!"

Nolan freezes, feels his heartbeat all the way in his palms.

 

I absolutely LOVED writing this scene.

I don’t even remember when the mistaken identity idea came up, but oh my gods, what a scene!

 

The guy--G, whatever the fuck his name is--looks confused, eyebrows drawing together, eyes darting back and forth; taking in Nolan and glancing back to Kevin like he can’t even wrap his head around the idea of Kevin having Nolan and not some sweet little housewife. He parts his lips, then purses them for a second, face tight and scrunched and grimacing, and his face finally settles on discomfort.

 

And, oh boy, G being SO confused and then embarrassed here! And Nolan not knowing at ALL what’s actually going on in his head.

 

He pulls his hand off Nolan but lets it drag across his back for a second, scratching gently in this way Nolan always finds comforting. Usually Nolan would lean into it, but he can still feel Ryanne and G’s eyes on him, and his cheeks are still hot, so he leans away and takes a few steps toward the counter, trying to look serious through his blush.

 

I hadn’t even thought about Nolan and Kevin being a physical comfort type friendship, but I LOVE it!! Kevin’s got these Big Grin And Slap On The Back vibes and Nolan’s got these Touch Me And Die Vibes, and yet!!!

 

G finally, like, unsticks his face and quickly walks up to stand behind the counter next to Ryanne. “We have one outside,” he says, sounding flustered, and Nolan’s heart rate slows down finally because at least he managed to make himself sound normal, not fucking freaked out like this guy does. “Our truck isn’t here today, but we can have it delivered. We do free delivery.”

Nolan rolls his shoulders back and recites the rest of his list, his voice steady and his chin up high, his eyes meeting G’s, then Ryanne’s. 

 

Here’s a portion of Nolan’s character getting developed:
He HATES being vulnerable, but he’s comforted by other people being vulnerable. And there’s that eye contact, that challenge.

 

Nolan feels Kevin leaning into his shoulder, like he’s checking in. He puts a little pressure back into it, tries to say “ I’m good ” through it, lets the tension in his jaw melt out. Kevin relaxes against him; sways away.

 

Again, with the physical comfort and knowing each other enough to be able to communicate through it!!!

 

As soon as he pulls onto the road in front of the Hayes’ farm, TK spots the shape of a guy way back in one of the pastures, putting his whole body into swinging a hatchet at a sapling.   

 

Getting into TK’s head was SO hard at first, but I actually really love it now.

 

But there’s no smoke or blood, or pumpkins, that he can see, so that’s good.

 

One of the final touches on this scene was adding the comma before “or pumpkins.” Setting it off like that changes the rhythm of this line and I think it gives this thought the right comedic timing.

 

The dude spins around and gives him the world's iciest glare.

 

Imagine Nolan Patrick’s dead-eyed glare turned at you while he’s holding a fucking hatchet.
No thank you!!!

 

“I’m TK,” he says, when probably-Patty doesn’t talk. “From G’s. You’re Patty, right?”  Patty’s chest heaves, and his fingers wobble a little as he sets the axe down. “Want a drink?” TK asks, holding out his water bottle. “It’s probably warm, but.” He shrugs.

 

I can’t stop looking at this scene and going “ah, the Before Days, when drinking after a stranger was a little weird but not as absolutely insane of a decision as it is now.”

 

“Patty,” a voice hollers across the field behind them. “Is that an axe murderer trying to get ya or are you good?”

TK smiles and looks over his shoulder. The guy from the porch, Kevin, TK figures, is making his way across the overgrown pasture towards them.

Nolan looks TK up and down, then looks to his big friend and holds up his hand, palm down, and does a wriggly little, “sort of” motion.

 

There’s sooooo much for TK and Nolan to get through before they even become friends, but I love this little moment of Nolan forgetting himself and making a joke at TK’s expense.

 

“I was just teaching him how to use an axe.” 

“He wasn’t--” Nolan starts, jerking out of Kevin’s headlock. 

Kevin lets him go and grins at TK, “And I missed the whole show!” 

 

Kev just flirts with everyone! And it’s so harmless! Honestly, in this moment, TK probably doesn’t even 100% clock that the show is Sweaty Dudes Swinging A Hatchet, but whatever, that’s fine.

 

As he crosses the fenceline on his way back to the truck, TK pauses to brush some dead grass off his jeans. He’s always been sad to see pretty farmland like this go unused, or even worse, get sold off and developed, so it warms his heart a little to know that Kevin and Nolan are kind of moving the other direction, coming out here from the city and trying to take care of the place.

 

The hopefulness! This wasn’t planned. We were just reaching the end of this scene and it felt too easy and too boring to have TK say goodbye and leave, end scene, that’s all folks. And as he walked across the field, I thought: “Okay, what’s the lived experience of this that wouldn’t normally get written in?” The fuckin’ dead grass. I cannot tell you how many times I took the fourwheeler out through the overgrown trails on the back of the property and came back head-to-toe covered in grass seeds. The little fond thought about Kev & Nolan came along in that moment, too.

 

TK still feels weird calling his house, half a duplex in the middle of town, home. It’s been forever since he lived with his parents--shit, eight years or something, back before he graduated high school--and he likes his place just fine, but he still mostly calls it “ my house.

 

We’ve been pretty vague so far with the backgrounds of these characters. I love stories that do that kind of slow, reveal-as-you-go thing with characters and rules of the universe, but I think there’s a fine line to toe to make it feel natural. The world has to be lush and nuanced, so that details feel like they’re coming from somewhere, instead of just being pulled out of thin air to suit the needs of the moment at hand.

I feel like this little bit of TK’s history is some of both: coming out of the world we’ve developed AND building more of that world for future details to come from. I hope we succeeded.

 

Tonight, they’re having their first cookout of the year. It’s early April, finally warm enough to hang out outside and have it actually be fun, and his dad and his cousin Bo are grilling burgers and hot dogs while his mom and aunts lay out buns and condiments and potato salad.  Lawson and TK are hanging out right next to the cooler full of beer, greeting people as they wander over to pull out cans, shaking melted ice off before popping them open.

 

There’s a thread that runs mostly-quietly through this whole story that’s about community. It doesn’t necessarily start here, but I think this is the first time it becomes clear. I’d like to go more into detail on this, but that will come later, once we’re further in or done with the story.

 

“We gotta take the fourwheelers out sometime,” Law is telling TK, sipping out of the can of Hamm’s his hand is wrapped all the way around. “Figure out where we wanna put our blinds and trail cams for next season.” 

 

What’s the shitty cheap beer in your region? I’d think of PBR or Natty Lite. We went with Hamm’s since it was what Leah thought of and she’s spent more time closer to the setting of this story.

 

“I’m wearing my shirt you gave me,” Gavin yells with all the energy and excitement that comes with being six years old (and that G always says comes with being TK, too: “working with you has just been practice for having a kid.”) 

“What! Let me see it, little man.” 

Gavin backs up and stretches his shirt out from his body, pointing to the printed picture of a moose. 

“Dude, it looks great on you!” 

 

We are doing our level best to write as little Child Dialogue as possible. Neither of us are comfortable with it and Gavin’s meant to be more of a tertiary character in the story, anyway.

 

G and Ryanne smile and roll their eyes in sync, and then TK’s mom bustles into their circle, hugging Ryanne and then G. She asks them about business and how Gavin’s liking school and all this boring stuff, and TK stands next to Law and tries to look like he’s sort of paying attention. What he’s really doing is watching all the kids in his periphery, ducking backwards and catching one whenever they run by close enough, tickling them or ruffling their hair a little before letting them go. 

 

I am so fond of this little look into TK’s personality. I also think that everyone involved in this little conversation is absolutely aware that TK’s making an effort to appear involved, but really focusing on the kids. I like to think they’re fond of this too.

 

“Yeah!” Ryanne says. “He and his friend seem super nice, I think they’re really working hard on getting everything back up and running again. How’d it look when you were over there, TK?” 

“Really great,” he says, which is, like, a lie, but the thought of saying that they’re struggling doesn’t sit right in his gut. “Yeah, they’re really working hard.” Way less of a lie.

 

We had to do some revision on this line. Initially, this came across more like gossip, which is, in my opinion, not really what’s happening? Like, it’s more about passing news around and getting a general vibe check than it is about spilling details. Ry’s not gonna spill about G embarrassing himself, and TK’s not gonna spill about how out of their depth they might actually be.

 

“I wanted to tell ‘em that once you have kids, human or goat, TK’s suddenly just there all the time,” G grumbles. 

 

I’m absolutely in LOVE with this detail. It makes me happy every time. I think this one’s from Leah.

 

“So buddy I heard you're getting goats!” TK shouts across the driveway as Nolan wanders down from the porch where he was reading another stupid article, this time on how to put together a fence from rotted old posts and rolls of wire gridding. 

 

When we were working on chapter three, I counted out all the dialogue in this scene. Nolan thinks SO much in this scene, but actually speaks about one-eighth of the dialogue.

 

“Which field are you putting them in to start with?”

“That one,” Nolan says, without pointing anywhere.

 

Nolan, please. TK is so patient with him, but he’d drive me up the wall so fucking fast.

 

There’s this feeling, like Nolan’s spent his entire life turning other people’s ideas of him over and over in his hands, getting to know them. And when he left his hometown behind, went off to college, he’d started to dig his fingers in, taking bits off and adding pieces on until it felt right. In the city, Nolan had finally uncovered the shape of himself, but by then he could also see the ways Philly didn’t fit him like he’d hoped it would.

 

And here we get into our first little bit of Nolan Gender Thesis.
Honestly, my idea of Nolan’s gender is pretty simple.
He’s comfortable with he pronouns. He’s comfortable with gendered terms like “man”.
His ideal style is somewhere between hippie lesbian and grunge lesbian.
He paints his nails sometimes, wears his hair up, probably has reflective heart-shaped sunglasses.
He’s not a man doing feminine things, he’s him doing him things.

In this paragraph, we see a little bit of him figuring that out: dropping habits that don’t fit him now that he’s not in the restrictive environment of the town he grew up in, picking up comfort with different clothing and long hair, etc. Being in the city was GREAT for his gender discovery, but it turns out it’s not what he needed for the rest of him.

 

He glances sideways at TK as they both work, trying to figure him out. He looks like a redneck but acts like Kevin, goofy and obnoxiously friendly. Seems like he could be wearing a MAGA hat but instead has on a snapback with a little fuzzy cartoon llama embroidered on it next to the words “you’re neat.” When he said he liked Nolan’s shirt, Nolan had thought automatically that it was a stupid joke about to be followed by a really shitty joke, but TK had just smiled at him, and then taught him how to chop down a tree. 

 

“it was a stupid joke about to be followed by a really shitty joke” I like this sentiment, but I also really like the visual repetition of this line! It’s just very satisfying to my brain.

 

Nolan really, really doesn’t. The hot southern goat guy only ever had, like, five goats at a time in the background of his videos. And the articles Nolan read mostly said there shouldn’t be more than eight goats per acre, and he figured--based kind of on nothing--that the pasture was around one acre, maybe. 

 

I’ve got this article downloaded called “Balancing Animals With Forage” if anybody wants it lmao

 

“Woah, man, I was born in Ontario! That’s awesome, I’ve like literally never met another person from Canada before.” 

Nolan is--a little surprised by that info. Usually telling people he’s from Canada is met with someone saying “ oh cool eh ” in this fake fucking Fargo accent. And Travis, with his light southern drawl and “y’alls,” really didn’t ping Nolan’s Canadian radar, although now that he says it, Nolan can maybe kind of hear a little Ontario lilt to his voice.  

 

TK’s accent is definitely a weird mashup: he grew up here in this town, probably doesn’t remember living anywhere else, but his parents and family have Canadian accents, so he’s picked up a fair bit of their speech patterns.

 

“The goats will eat on the weeds and stuff, so you won’t have to worry about that. If you don’t mind feeding ‘em a little extra hay when they need it, I reckon you’d be able to have fifteen or twenty at a time.” 

 

Here’s something that will come back up later! TK knows his shit inside and out, has learned it through osmosis and experience. Nolan probably wasn’t wrong about the technical calculations for how many goats he could keep, but TK knows what grasses grow in this area and how fertile the soil is and how much hay can be supplemented in the winter, etc etc. Could he tell you how to calculate it? No. Is he right? Yes. (In this fictional universe, at least. I’m not tryna do math.)

 

“I bet he was like, ‘it matches your eyes,’ huh? Cause your eyes are kind of the same color.” 

 

Travis..... please..........

 

TK says: “I love knots.” 

 

This line.... We knew it was gonna be a funny way to end the chapter, but it really took off, didn’t it? I don’t really regret using it to finish the scene, but it’s definitely been read into a lot by some readers in a way that’s not gonna pay off. Sorry, y’all! I hope we made it clear in the next chapter, but this really is just a throwaway line. It’s funny, it’s stupid, it doesn’t mean anything.

Chapter Text

It’s not really a pretty pond. The banks are all dried, crunchy mud, and the trees around it are still sparse and not quite green, the too-bright glare of the early spring sun cutting through them. 

Travis loves it out here.

Leah started this scene, wrote most of it. I love all of it, but especially this bit here, describing the pond and how unpretty it is. This part contrasts really nicely, I think, with Nolan’s stressed out sunrise in chapter one, and makes a nice match for opening the first TK-centric chapter.

 

He remembers, too--after going years without thinking about it--fishing out at the Hayes’ little pond a few times. Every spring Harvey Hayes would stock it with bluegill and largemouths and then invite TK’s grandpa, and when TK got to go along, Harvey would whittle down a stick TK could pretend was a cigar. He’d felt like such an adult, with the way they included him in their conversations and pretended they weren’t supervising when he gutted his own catch.

Here’s a moment of that community thread floating back up to the surface of the story.

 

Law shrugs. “He’s lived in Atlanta for like, ten years now.”

TK blinks out at the water. It’s been a whole year of getting surprised by how old he is, he thinks. By how long ago things that seem like they happened last week were. 

We’ve talked a little in the text about the timeline of this story. We’ve probably fudged the age gaps between characters a little bit, but I did the math halfheartedly the first time, and I’m not putting more effort into it right now lol.
TK, Law, Claire, and Nolan are in their late twenties, around 27-29.
Kevin, Claude, and Ryanne are in their early thirties, around 32-34.

 

All about the big lure order he just finished for one of their old high school teachers, which he’s pretty sure he hasn’t told Law about yet, and about how the guy G had bought the feed store from years ago--when the guy was retiring and was gonna close the shop--died last week. Law nods along to the lure talk, says, “Dang that’s too bad, I gotta send his daughter a card.” Asks TK, “How’s that farmer’s market deal coming?”

TK tells him how he’s got four stalls built and a fifth one half done, and how Ryanne’s got at least twelve people lined up to bring their produce and crafts in when they’re ready to open up in May or June. 

*bangs fists on table* COMMUNITY!!!!!!
I really want to talk more about this, but I want it to come up organically in the story, so it’ll have to come back later once the story is complete.

 

The way his brain feels makes TK think of how a big pot of water looks when it really starts to boil: a thought bubbles up, but then off on the other side, another one comes up and takes his attention, and then that just keeps happening over and over.

You wanna write weird and unique metaphors? Here’s my method:
1. Have ADHD
2. Give your character ADHD
3. DM your coauthor while making pasta
4. Literally any thought that pops into your head is now fair game

 

For the last day, his top bubble thoughts have been about, like, the lightbulb in his bathroom that needs replacing, getting inventory done at work, how he can convince Law to help him finish clear-coating a set of lures, if Claire and Law would like it if he repainted their kitchen cabinets for them. But the water under the surface, the little bubbles building at the bottom of the pan, have just kind of been, like. Nolan.

The phrase “top bubble thoughts” has been bouncing around my head since Leah wrote this. I love the idea of bigger, more distracting thoughts that cover over and kind of hide the smaller, more steady and constant thoughts.

 

He thinks it has something to do with how desperately he wanted to make Nolan smile and how good it felt to even have that be a challenge, a reward he could get if he worked hard enough. 

Oh, darling TK, we’re only just getting started!

 

He feels like he knows, even after just a total of, like, fifteen minutes of being around him, that Nolan isn’t the kind of guy who's easy to make laugh. He wouldn’t give it to TK just to make him feel good--not like some of the customers at the shop did, laughing kind of stilted so TK was never quite sure if they were being real or not. Nolan would make an annoyed face at TK if he was annoyed, and he wouldn’t laugh if he didn’t want to. 

Even if he finds something funny! He’s not just gonna give TK a laugh unless he truly wants to! Leah wrote this and I feel like it’s such good characterization of Nolan and of their relationship.

 

TK’d pulled up to the farm that second time, too excited about the goats to even wait till he didn’t have to shout to talk to Nolan about them, and Nolan had just let his feet drop off the chair he had them propped on and crossed the driveway so slowly, looking like, fuck. TK thinks he should have a better description, but the only thing that had popped into his head was cool as hell , with his skinny, ripped up black jeans with the bottoms turned up in little cuffs above what Claire would call “shitkicker boots.” He looked like he would fit in at some, like, underground rock show. Except for his Carhartt. 

It was kinda wild how Nolan stood there, combat boots and all, and kicked at the gravel and just looked like this whole place had been his forever. 

This is such a cinematic moment for me. It also stands out as one of the moments we were able to get differently from each point of view. Nolan doesn’t even think about this. He was reading on the porch and then walked to the truck. TK sees more detail in it, how Nolan had his feet propped up, how he looks at once belonging and apart from the scene around him, how he scuffed his feet in the driveway.
Something that I also love about this is that TK doesn’t think that Nolan belongs to or in this place. The farm belongs to him.

 

So while Nolan was out there being like, the coolest fucking person he’d maybe ever met, TK kept going back and forth on whether he’d been good and smart and helpful or just way too much. And then, while TK was still feeling like he’d tripped over his own feet, like, emotionally or something, Nolan just told him he had an ex boyfriend like it was nothing.  

“tripped over his own feet, emotionally”
There’s nothing really special about this line, just a way to explain the feeling, but I love it a lot.

 

Like he wasn’t worried at all who knew, like he was still in the city where gossip didn’t travel faster than TK’s mom’s sourdough gets snapped up at the church bake sale. It had surprised TK, big time, and left him scrambling for things to say, coming up with the stupidest scraps of conversation that his brain could string together. 

For a while this line was “gossip didn’t travel faster than [something].” This was one of the spots where I think Leah and I have really enjoyed writing together. It feels much less daunting to leave something incomplete when you’ve got someone who can help fill in the gaps or encourage you while you figure out exactly how to work local flavor into the text.

 

The same way he’d never told anyone about that time he’d been late to school once back in junior year and walked right past two girls from his class kissing in the parking lot. The same way he’d never told anybody about how seeing those girls made him put a name to the look he’d caught on his buddy Sanny’s face a few times over the years, when Sanny had maybe thought he wasn’t looking. Travis had been looking, though, and maybe kind of making the same face. 

I want to explore the idea of TK/Sanny more. Not in this story, but as a general concept.

 

The same way Law had never said a single word besides “I got you, bud” when TK was silent and shaky the entire drive home from some stupid fucking party where he’d talked himself into a stupid fucking corner--about Travis Sanheim, of fucking course--and some jock had asked “What, Konecny? You gonna ask him to prom or something?” like there was a wrong answer, and TK had clammed up for like the first time in his life, while some other fucker made a stupid fucking joke about their names. Actual Angel Lawson Crouse had slapped TK’s ass and said something--TK was too full of adrenaline and probably beer to remember what--and set the jocks off laughing about something else, and then pulled him through the crowd and out to the truck.

I love Law so fucking much.

 

“I guess he’s from Canada, so that’s fun,” TK finally answers, like that has anything to do with all the hundreds of reasons TK wants to be Nolan’s friend.

We had to go back and insert the moments during TK’s whole internal monologue where he thinks about Law. I really liked the idea of getting all of these millions of thoughts into TK’s head in a short span of time, but there’s like a thousand words or something of it, and it became a little TOO shocking when we finally jumped back out of his head.

 

Usually, when he starts feeling restless like this, he’ll try to stay busy: TK’ll help Law with one of the projects he constantly has going on at him and Claire’s place--building a deck or fixing up the old shed out back into a little studio for Claire or whatever--or he’ll work a few extra hours at G’s on one of Ryanne’s ideas--stalls for the farmer’s market or a little pegboard to display TK’s lures up by the register. 

But if Law and Ryanne are both busy or it’s too late to go into the store, and if his parents don’t need anything done around the house either, he’ll go out to his garage, sit down at his workbench, put on a true crime podcast, and work on lures. 

TK is entirely unaware that it’s not the Doing Things For People that makes him feel better, it’s the Being Around People. Leah and I have had a decent amount of conversation about TK’s love languages, and this is a moment where that comes up. No more detail about that this early in the story ;)

 

“The third victim was also dark haired, 5’8”, 29 years old,” the guy on the podcast drones. “Her friends described her as super friendly, a big people person, always willing to help everyone out.” TK shivers a little, checks over his shoulder to make sure the garage door is still closed. He takes out his tiniest brush--the one he uses to paint on gills and eyes--and sits back down in front of the perch.

Ya boy is NOT 5’10”.
We got comments on him listening to true crime (real fact if you didn’t know!!) but not on this bit specifically, so I’m not sure if it exactly landed. The description here isn’t a throwaway line. TK is so freaked out by it because--pronouns aside--it matches him pretty much exactly!

 

“Heads up, little man!” TK’s a few feet away from Gavin’s favorite perch--the stack of feed bags closest to the cash register--when he tosses his mostly-empty water bottle in a gentle, underhanded arc. Gav only fumbles the catch a little before grinning up at him, and TK flings his arms up and cheers.

TK has absolutely googled stuff about the stages of kids’ development (not in those words, obviously) and has like. read Ry and G’s baby books. He’ll always be humble about it (“I don’t know shit, but it’s good for him to practice catching things, right?”) but he’s SO invested in Gavin’s life.

 

When he gets to the counter, he slides behind it, reaching across Ryanne to tuck his keys back into his little cubby under the desk, next to his phone. “Matthew and Brady say hi,” he tells her. “The beans are lookin' good, and Keith’s clearing extra space for more corn this year.”

In my head, there’s like, two little cubbies under the counter. Ostensibly, they’re both for whoever’s on shift, but the handful of part-timers that have rotated in and out throughout the years all end up leaving TK’s preferred one to him.  

 

It’s maybe kind of weird, but this is one of his favorite things: the click of the pricing gun, the weirdly comforting smell of bug spray from a bottle that came a little unsealed, just being around some of his favorite people.

There’s a specific smell that I find so comforting in shops like this: animal feed and fly spray and a little bit of dust. It feels warm, both in temperature and in emotion.

 

Time doesn’t, like, fly, but he’s in a groove and everything kind of turns into a steady background hum of the soft music playing in the store and Gavin sounding out words off the backs of feed bags and a handful of customers coming and going.

There was a whole section here, maybe 600 or so words that had to get cut for pacing. It didn’t do all that much for the story, but initially TK spent part of his lunch break helping Gavin read things. I really like the idea of Gav growing up with TK taking on a role somewhere between older brother and cool uncle.

 

G frowns. “I just said something stupid when they were in here before, and it was so fucking--” Ryanne slaps at his arm without looking up from her computer screen “--awkward. I’m pretty sure it seemed like I was being a d-- being rude but I was just.” G shrugs, looking uncomfortable the way he always does when he has to, like, talk about his feelings.

I don’t think G is, like, unfeeling or anything, I just think in this universe he’s a little awkward about it. He grew up in this place, same as TK and Law, and being soft and showing affection is still uncomfortable. I don’t want to put all the work of emotional growth on the women in this story, but I do think Ry had a big effect on him over the years, and has helped him get better at using his words for stuff like this.

Part of this, also, is something Leah and I discussed as we wrote the original shop scene with G and Nolan. G is, at least in this universe, more of an actions-over-words kind of guy. Why doesn’t he apologize to Nolan in the moment, when he can tell Nolan’s uncomfy? Well, he initially does in his own way: he gathers himself, finishes the transaction in a very professional and helpful way, and then takes the time to very sincerely say it was nice to meet him to, like, wrap up the interaction in a personal way so it’s hopefully clear he doesn’t have a problem with Nolan.
(Turns out, he’s still not sure that’s enough, so he tries to work it out a little better by having TK put in a good word for him, too.)

 

“I don’t get it. Like, what did you say to him?” TK kind of can’t imagine Nolan being bothered by G being accidentally gruff like he sometimes is.

G runs a hand over the back of his neck, wincing. “I just thought, like. Because Kevin always called him Patty, I--figured that was his wife or girlfriend or something?”

“You told him you thought that?” TK asks, a little shrill.

“They came in separately, so I didn’t know it was him!” G snips back, defensive, before sighing. “He overheard. And I don’t know if they’re just roommates or if they are whatever--y’all know I don’t care, but I kind of feel like Nolan thought I did--” G winces again.“So if they come in, can you just say something to them? Like, that I’m not a homophobe?” 

We initially didn’t have G explaining what exactly happened, it just cut to Jimmy coming in, and I think we were gonna come back to it later? But clarity, resolution, not letting the reader misunderstand G’s mishap for too long, etc etc, so it got put back in.

 

TK’s mind is spinning and he is never gonna let G live this down and he’s already thinking about how he’s gonna spin this into a joke to Nolan but also make sure he feels, like, safe or whatever, but the bell over the door rings then, and Jimmy, this old farmer TK always helps, shuffles in. TK thunks the countertop with his forehead for just a second while he, like, gets control of his brain and his breath again, and then he pushes back in his chair and spins it around, slipping into his most charming customer service voice.

TK is so fucking thoughtful. thought-full.

 

TK’s eyes crinkle at the corners as he smiles wide. It’s so easy to fall into this kind of chatter, this pattern, with the older guys he grew up helping out on weekends.

Maybe this is an ADHD thing, maybe not, but I feel like TK probably has the same kind of contradictory brain ability that I do where we either:
1. Get distracted and completely lose track of whatever thought was happening first, or
2. Can have multiple threads of thought running at once and as soon as the second one is over, we can pop right back over to the first as if nothing ever interrupted.
I like to think the second option is what’s happening here with TK’s thoughts about Nolan. That’s all sitting on a backburner while he switches into customer service mode, but it’s not gone at all.

 

TK snags a little pack of powdered electrolytes he’d only just stocked, then hauls one of the fifty pound bags of goat feed up and over his shoulder.  He thinks for a second and then puts the bag of electrolytes in his mouth, giving Gavin a grin that’s all teeth and holding out his empty arm for G to load the other feed bag onto.

This is purely fanservice. It’s me, I’m the fan. I wanted to get this bit in here where the reader can ogle TK for a minute without it having anything to do with Nolan. Attractiveness doesn’t have to be through the lens of a relationship 100% of the time.
(Although I do love to imagine Nolan seeing this later down the line and getting a little hot under the collar.)

 

When TK gets back inside, Jimmy and G are debating the merits of different grass seed mixtures and how many packs Jimmy needs for the field he’d had fenced last fall. As soon as he makes it up to the counter, both sets of eyes are on him, sharklike.

“Woah, boys, I’m just the hands around here,” he laughs, “I can grab a calculator, but you know my brother’s the one with a degree.”

This whole scene is just a vehicle for two things:
1. Getting into G’s head a little bit about his introduction to Nolan, and
2. Getting the biggest heart eyes emoji you can picture onto the page about TK.

He knows SO much and he’s SO good at seeing and putting together the little details to make a big picture. G and Ry know it, the old guys who practically raised him into this career know it. Could Jimmy and G figure out which grass to plant and how much? Yeah, sure, but TK has such good observations and insight into WHY his choice is right.

We talked a bit about River for the Sea, Leah’s fic, here and the difference between that TK and this one. Here, he doesn’t necessarily see himself as stupid, but he certainly doesn’t put himself on the same tier as his brother or Law, who both left for college. It’s not really that he didn’t think he could do it, but that he wanted to do this, wanted to stay more than he wanted to go.

 

TK steps behind the counter and fishes his phone out of the cubby. He glances at his notifications--a text from Law, some new messages in his family’s group chat, and one text from a number he doesn’t recognize. He gets distracted by it for a second, reading the words instead of just flicking past them and opening up his calculator app the way he would with any other text: who sells goats .

G and Ry and probably their part-timers keep their phones on them at work or keep them under the counter and regularly check them, but TK just throws his in at the start of each day and then only takes it out at the end of the day or when he’s going out on deliveries. Everyone knows this, and would probably just call the shop or text Ry or G if they really needed him.

 

TK shrugs out of his jacket and throws it over the back of a chair, then tosses his phone toward the sofa. It bounces off a cushion and he can hear the muffled thump of it landing on the floor. Whatever, he’ll get it after he sits down. TK pulls a glass out of the dish rack, fills it with water at the tap, and then props the fridge open with his shoulder so he can drink and look at what he’s got at the same time.

When he sits down and picks his phone up from under the coffee table five minutes later--fresh glass of water and some warmed up leftover pizza in hand--he’s got a message back.

TK texts for little stuff and for work, but I think this TK is much more of a phone call person. He’s used to answering questions and giving advice for work in a way that’s more playing tag than an in-the-moment conversation. Getting a text back from Nolan before he’d gotten back to his phone was not what he expected!