We only had two days of school, Monday and Tuesday, and then we were off for the Thanksgiving break. The only real thing due was the English paper, and I felt pretty confident about my grade on that one. Travis continued to gain confidence in us, and Parker was just Parker - which is to say the best friend I ever had.
Tuesday night my mom wasn't working. Even though I hadn't seen much of her I'd not really missed her. We hadn't spent much time with each other since she'd gone to nights, and now I had Parker and Travis. So, really, I didn't miss what I hadn't had for a while anyway. My father had been the big figure at home, so I didn't feel compelled to spend time with my mother because she was home. She had other plans.
"So, Shane, we should probably talk and do some planning," she said as she sat curled on the couch. I sat in the chair beside her, hoping to make this talk short.
"Talk about what?"
"A couple of things," she said and ran her palm along the top of her pants. "First thing is that I'm putting the house on the market. It kind of brings me to my second thing." She sighed and ran a hand through her hair. "I don't know how to say all of this so... Cliff's wife used to work the same shift with me."
"Okay," I said, wishing she'd get to the point.
"She'd gotten sick, and she passed away about nine months ago. During that time Cliff and I...we got close, Shane," she said and looked at me steadily.
I blinked a few times. "You were cheating?" I asked. The conversation Parker and I had had with my father flashed through my mind. Parker had asked his opinion on stealing someone's partner, and my father had reacted with a cold blooded statement about murdering whomever that might be. It had been sobering and chilling, as we'd just been debating as a lark.
She coughed slightly and ran a hand through her hair. "It just kind of developed. Things with your father had cooled to the point of, well, me taking a job to get way from him." She looked down and rubbed one hand over the other nervously. "Cliff and I have a good thing. He's a good man. I was thinking that we could spend Thanksgiving at his place and give you a chance to get to know him, and if things go well, maybe we could move in with him."
"Move in? With Cliff?" I asked, a little dumbfounded.
"Yes. Why are you saying it like that?" she asked in a hurt tone.
I lifted my hands in the air and blinked my eyes in surprise at her. "You know, Mom, I know dad was an asshole. I had a front row seat. I don't really care that you cheated because, hey, the guy was emotionally absent from anything but his guns." I licked my lips and forced myself to go on. "Maybe you forgot, but I watched him put one of those things Cliff calls a tool to his head and blow bits of brain and skull out into the clear morning air. I watched it. Couldn't avoid it. Got blood on me."
She pushed her lips together and her eyes grew wet.
"And now you are telling me you want me to live with another gun freak? You expect me to live in a house with tools in it? No. No fucking way." I stood up and looked down on her. "You can live with him, sleep overnight or whatever arrangement you want to make. But I will never live in the same house with a gun again. Ever."
I turned and headed for the front door, ignoring her telling me to wait. It was harder to do when she screamed my name and caught up to me, spinning me around to face her. Her face had gone splotchy and her eyes were wet.
"I know you suffered, but damn it Shane, so have I! It's like my life has been on hold while I was married to that asshole, and I was going to leave him! I was! But I had to think about you!" she said, her voice loud, rising and falling unsteadily.
"So this is my fault?" I asked, frowning as rage built up in me. "You thought about me? When did you do that? When you took a night job and left me alone with him? Or how about when you let him take me off with his nut job buddies for a weekend of fun playing kill animals or going hungry? Huh? Were you thinking of me then?" I leaned forward. "Your life's been on hold? I was afraid of the world. I had no friends. No contact with others in case, somehow, they reported back to some huge ass conspiracy that was out to take his stupid fucking guns!"
She was crying, now. I did feel some guilt. I can't see someone cry and not feel some empathy - it's just how I'm built. But I was also broken inside. Just bringing up my father shooting himself brought the horrible memory to the fore. It was a horrible scene, like a bad video on loop. I couldn't handle it anymore, so I left. I felt brittle, like one more thing would break me irretrievably. I wanted my anchors - my boyfriend and my best friend. I headed for Travis's house and worked the entire way to get myself under control.
His grandparents had left that afternoon for an overnight at some pot growers convention. They thought it was funny that pot had come far enough along to have open conventions like other businesses. I knocked on the door and turned the knob.
"Travis?" I called out.
"In my room," he called out. I strode through the house with the enormous desire to grab up Travis and just hold him to me until I didn't hurt so much. He was sitting on the floor, hair askew and playing Zelda again. He paused as I entered the room and frowned in concern.
"What's wrong?" he asked as he stood up. My eyes started to leak and I dropped my coat on his floor, kicked off my shoes and then pulled my shirt off before crossing the short distance between us. I pulled at his shirt and he fought me, trying to grab my hands.
"Shane. Shane! What's wrong! Why are you trying to - I don't think sex is the answer to whatever this is!"
I let my arms fall limply to my side and I sat heavily on the edge of his bed. He sat tentatively beside me, but the miserable feelings inside me just began to fester.
"I'm not...after sex," I said haltingly.
"Then why are you trying to get us naked?" he asked and leaned forward, trying to look at my face. I turned to meet his gaze, sure I looked like I'd been crying ugly - and I guess I had.
"I want a Travis blanket," I told him. He gave me a puzzled look and I pressed forward. "After we get done I like to pull you on top of me. To feel all of you connected to me. Warm and alive. It's very peaceful. I just want you to...lay there with me for a while. Is...that okay?"
He stood and pulled his shirt off and unbuttoned his pants. "Of course it is," he told me as he pushed his pants and underwear down and then each sock. He pulled on my hands to get me to stand and then he undressed me the rest of the way, even pushing me back so he could remove my socks. I slipped under his covers and he joined me, his head resting on my chest and the rest of him draped over me. I wrapped my arms around him and pulled him to me. He wiggled his arms under me and I sighed, kissing the top of his head.
"I love you."
"I love you, too, Shane," he said quietly.
I felt warmed by his body and his gentle breathing on my chest. It was an odd way, I guess, to find peace. Normally one might think I'd be all over him because we were both naked, but this wasn't about that. I guess in a way it was about trust and acceptance. It's a little strange to get naked with someone, wondering how they'll judge what they see. Although Travis has a litany of things he feels are shortcomings, he doesn't realize that I have my own hangups, I guess. Or maybe he does and they just don't matter to him. Yet this, feeling his thin frame sprawled across my own and the warmth from his body and the gentle rise and fall of his chest calmed my frayed nerves.
It was more than a half hour lying like we did, with some minor adjustments. He withdrew his arms and began to caress me gently. Not sexually, just comforting.
"Are you feeling any better?" he asked gently.
"Yes. Thank you," I replied in a whisper.
"I'm glad you came to me," he said, his voice clear and stronger. I turned that over for just a moment. Why would he say that? It took me a full minute to make the connection. He thought I'd go elsewhere, maybe to Parker.
"I needed this," I said and squeezed him lightly. "Only you can do this. I do want us to go to Parker's, though. I'm feeling like I need everything I can get tonight."
"I can hear your heart," he said quietly. "It was really fast when you got here, but now it sounds like you're calm. Calmer."
"I am," I replied and ran a hand up and down his back.
"A Travis blanket, huh?" he asked and chuckled.
"Yeah. My version of a security blanket, I guess," I told him. "Makes me feel safe."
He snorted. "Not something I ever expected to hear but...I'm glad I could help. Um, what happened?"
Haltingly I told him about the conversation with my mother. I was okay talking about her cheating and, I guess, falling for some guy. It got harder when I talked about the moving in and the guns. Then it was very hard to speak at all when I told him about how easily I can replay the carnage of my father's death. He stayed on me, keeping me grounded and warm as I poured out my pain to him. I cried again and he wiped them away.
"I'm going to text my grandparents that we're going to stay at Parker's, okay?" he asked.
I nodded and wiped my eyes.
"My phone is in the kitchen - we have a charging station out there. Will you be okay for a few minutes?"
"Hurry back, okay?"
"I will." He slipped from under the covers and exited the room. I yawned and stretched lightly, already missing the feel of him. What was I going to do? If she moved in with him would I end up begging for couch space at Parker's or Travis's? I know she feels like she's been waiting and she wants to move on with her life, but doesn't she have a responsibility to me? I felt like I'd fulfilled mine to her - I'd never been any real trouble before. I think I was pretty respectful, and I got good grades. My parents had always said school is my job.
The thoughts swirled in my head and I felt tired. I wondered what was taking Travis so long and was about to go in search of him when he re-entered the room. He slipped underneath the covers and pressed himself against me. He placed a soft kiss against my shoulder.
"Better, now," I told him.
"I called Parker and gave him a heads up. He cleared it with his parents for us to stay over. That's assuming you want me to come."
"Of course I do," I replied. "I need you."
"Okay. He's ready for us whenever. You want me to be your blanket for a while longer?"
"Please," I whispered. He settled back in, and I breathed deeply and tried to get back to the way I'd felt before he'd left the room and left me with my thoughts.
We hung out in Parker's room and, maybe because two of the biggest supports in my life were with me, I felt okay to collapse. I didn't have my blanket to keep things at bay, and I really couldn't keep Travis naked and in bed with me at all times. Even though I'd told Travis how I felt, in front of Parker I turned into a sobbing mess. I was loud enough that his mother noticed and she listened to the story with what seemed like a lot of concern. Parker had crammed all three of us in his bed, me sandwiched between him and my boyfriend. It was what I'd hoped for, and thank goodness Travis is so damn good to me as to not tell me he thought this was weird or anything. I felt safe to cuddle him and, in turn, have Parker cuddling me from behind. In the morning I hung around with them for a little while until I got a shock - my mother showing up at Parker's front door.
"Boys," Mrs. Reid said to Parker and Travis. "Maybe you can give me a hand while Shane and his mom talk?"
They both reluctantly followed her into the kitchen while I sat in the living room with my mother. It felt tense. While I'm not sure comfortable would be a term I'd have applied to being with my father, it had been what passed for normal. This, though, felt as if the very air had gained weight and were pressing down on me. My breath felt labored and my lungs heavy.
"So Parker's mom called to tell me where you were. You left your phone at home and I was worried," she said, her tone bordering on bitter.
"I'll try to remember it the next time we fight," I told her sullenly.
She sighed and pushed her fingers across the top of her hand. "Okay, probably not the best starting point." She sighed and lifted her gaze to mine. "Shane, it's my fault we're practically strangers. You don't deserve that. I didn't talk to you enough to know you hated going with your father on those weekends. I don't know if I could have stopped him, but if I had known, I could have tried." She pursed her lips and looked down, and my stance toward her softened.
"I guess I could have told you, but I figured you knew and didn't say anything. I mean, you knew he was taking me so...I guess I just figured you were okay with it." I shifted my hands restlessly. I felt a niggling feeling of doubt. Was there something I should have done?
She folded her hands together. "No. But why would you think of saying something to me? I wasn't there for you. I suppose I thought your dad was molding you into a copy of himself, and I, mistakenly, thought you were happy with that. Of course," she said with a sigh, "I couldn't have been more wrong."
I sat uncomfortably. I didn't know what to say next. It was true and yet it wasn't a pleasant truth. There was no relief that the gauzy uncertainty of what we'd allowed to pass as truth had been ripped away. She was, essentially, letting me go because she thought I was going to be a copy of a man she had fallen out of love with and was intending to leave. No doubt she'd have left me behind as well.
"So. What now? You had a future planned, and I'm pretty sure I wasn't included. With Dad dead...." I left the thought hanging, unfinished.
She leaned back a little in her chair, back bent forward. It was almost like she wanted to relax but her spine didn't get the message.
"Well, there are a few options, and I think we should lay them out and talk about them." She hesitated and then said, "First I want you to know Cliff understands how you feel, and he's willing to make adjustments for your peace of mind."
I lifted an eyebrow. "What adjustments?"
"Well, this is down the road, but if we were to move in he said he'd keep anything he uses for defense at home in a bio-metric safe. In his bedroom so you'd never be confronted with it. I know it's not exactly what you stated," she said quickly, holding a hand up, "but hear me out."
I ground my teeth together and nodded at her, not trusting myself to speak.
"For the short term I think we should get an apartment. This will give you a chance to get to know Cliff, over time and without us all being in one house. Less pressure," she said with a little nod as if agreeing with herself. "I hope you'll come to appreciate Cliff and, maybe in a year or so, we can reassess."
"And if it's not enough? What if I can't handle the idea of that weapon in the house with me?"
She cocked her head to one side and looked past me. "Then we'll stay in the apartment until you're ready to leave for school or move into your own place. I won't make you move in where you'll feel so much stress, not as long as we can afford it. But I also think you need to get into counseling."
I could swear I heard Travis say "Thank you" from the other room. Little spy. I could picture Parker and Travis doing their best to listen in and I smiled to myself.
"Okay. What about tomorrow?" I asked, since it was Thanksgiving day and this is what had sparked the whole argument.
"Cliff agreed it would be a bad idea to have it at his place. So we'll have him come over to our house. Maybe you'd like to have your friends come over later for pie."
My friends. Funny. It was true, in the most basic sense. But maybe, with them listening in from the other room, maybe I should tell my mother who they were. I mean who they really were.
"My boyfriend would love pie. He loves berry pies - strawberry, blueberry, raspberry - he probably likes that one that sounds made up. You remember?" I asked her.
She nodded her head with a smile. "I remember. I brought it home just because it sounded funny."
"Yumberry," we said together and let out a little laugh.
"Parker is more than a friend, too, Mom," I told her. "He's the closest thing to... he's my brother. I love him and Travis and you're going to see a lot of them."
"It's a good thing we have a lot of pies. Cliff likes to bake, and he's been pretty busy gathering everything he needs. I'll tell him about the hungry boys who will be stopping in for dessert," she said and reached for me tentatively. I stood and reached out for her and she followed through on her reach for me. It was a good hug, but odd. I don't recall my mother ever being the hugging sort. I don't know if she felt it, too, but it wasn't a long hug. She stepped back and looked at me, and I noticed how tired she looked.
"I have some prep to take care of for tomorrow. Why don't you come give me a hand?"
"Okay," I said. "Is it okay if I meet you at home?"
"Yes. I have to stop by the store for a few things, and I should call Cliff." She paused and looked at me compassionately. "He's a good man, Shane. I hope you'll give him a chance."
I took a breath. "I'll try."
She nodded and touched my shoulder briefly. "That's all I ask."
Parker and Travis entered the room and my mom went in to thank Mrs. Reid for letting us have our talk in her living room. I was kind of surprised when Parker hugged me. He leaned back and gave me a crooked grin.
"I'm not calling you Bro. It's so lame. Maybe I should call you Ther?"
"What?" I asked in confusion.
"Everyone uses Bro. How about we use the part of the word no one uses?" he asked as if he were serious. Shit. I think he's serious.
He put an arm around my shoulder and looked at Travis. "Trav, meet my Ther - Shane Reid."
"Park - what?" I looked at him, sort of forgetting the stupid 'Ther' thing of a moment.
Parker glanced at me and put on his crooked smile again. "Blankenship is a lot to say. Besides, I'm pretty sure I don't like your dad. So you can have my last name. Can you imagine the fun we can have fucking with people?"
"Parker! Language!" his mother said as she reentered the room with my mother.
"What? I'm not supposed to say fun anymore?" Parker asked.
"Your room is overdue for cleaning," his mother said with a slight edge to her voice. "Today's the day. Especially if you think you're gorging yourself on pie tomorrow."
"But nobody sees my room! Why do I have to clean it?" Parker whined.
"Aren't you embarrassed to have your brother and his boyfriend see it?"
"Nah. They get me. Right guys?" He paused and glanced at us. "Guys?"
"Um, it did kind of smell," I said tentatively and looked at Travis.
"I almost tripped over a jockstrap," Travis deadpanned.
"I don't own a jockstrap!" Parker stated.
"That's the troubling part," Travis told him, and I burst out laughing at him teasing Parker.
"You two," he said, pointing at us in turn. "I provided a valuable cuddle last night and this is what I get?"
"True," I said with a grin. "I'll give you a hand."
"That's kind of you - brotherly love, I'm sure," Mrs. Reid said. "But your brother has to learn his lesson so...he'll see you tomorrow."
I winced. "Ouch. Text me later?"
"If the Commandant lets me," he snorted and lifted the corner of his mouth up in amusement. "I'll see if I can get time off for decent behavior."
"Isn't it supposed to be good behavior?" Travis asked.
"We take what we can get," Mrs. Reid said with a chuckle.
My mom headed out and I walked Travis home. We had our coat sleeves inside the other, again, so we could hold hands.
"Sorry you had to hear all that," I told him.
"Don't be. I want to know everything," he said and then paused and bit his lip for a micro-second. He glanced at me. "Sorry. I was just about to blurt out a bunch of crap. I was just putting the brakes on."
I smiled at him. "You can ask or say anything, Travis. More than anything, I wish you'd relax and just let us figure this relationship out without relying on what Angie or Clint told you."
He frowned lightly. "It's not entirely that. I mean, yes, I could probably embarrass myself and say a bunch of true but over-the-top things. They were right about not placing people on pedestals. I can see, in retrospect, how that wasn't going to work." He glanced up at me. "It's hard for me to accept this reality. You're so handsome," he said and blushed but plunged onward. "You're everything you said you'd be, right from that awkward way you asked me out."
"That was a slick asking out. Don't you tell anyone otherwise," I told him seriously and then laughed as he smiled back.
"I mean you've been honest. At first I worried this was some kind of joke. But now I'm kind of overwhelmed, because I feel so much for you and you...give it right back to me. It's hard to accept, in some ways, that there really is someone who can look at me and love me and...want me."
"I do, though. I have for a while. I have to say, by the way, the extra pounds are looking good on you," I said and bumped him gently.
He smiled and blushed a bit. "I'm glad your mom is getting you counseling. I was going to ask you, after we talked before, but it didn't seem like a good time."
I sighed, my breath pluming before me. "Yeah. She'd brought it up before, but nothing came of it. You think I'm fucked up enough to need that? What if they think I'm nuts or want to medicate me?"
He shook his head. "You're not fucked up. I mean, maybe a little. Who could see what you did and not come out with some stuff to fix? You don't have a chemical imbalance in your brain, so long term, drugs won't be the answer. I think you just need some help to cope with that whole thing."
"I think a Travis blanket is a huge help," I told him.
He blushed again and tightened his grip. "I'm glad to do my part." He pulled up and looked around us. "This isn't my neighborhood. It's yours."
"I was hoping you'd come spend some time with me and my mom. I want her to get to know you."
He hesitated. "Don't you think she's trying to spend time with you?"
"She had time before and didn't. She'll have more time. Right now, if she wants to know who I am, she could learn a lot by being around the people I love."
He eyed me for a moment and then sighed. "I probably shouldn't tell you this, but I'd do just about anything for you when you say you love me."
I leaned down and gave him a chaste kiss. "I'll try not to abuse it the way you do your lip bite."
"I don't...yeah, okay, fine," he said with a roll of his eyes and a grin.
We spent the afternoon working with my mom. If she was irritated at it not being just she and I, she didn't show it. We worked on our traditional cranberry salad, the jello salad and ambrosia that adorned our table each year. As we did my mom got to know my boyfriend and got to see just how smart he was. I'm pretty sure she was impressed. Eventually he did go home, however.
I texted with him and Parker that night. Parker was investigating other languages for less douchey ways to call me his brother. It was funny and endearing and totally Parker.
Cliff showed up around one and I helped him bring in a stupid number of pies and one enormous fucking turkey. He seemed cheerful and not at all put out about dragging everything over to my house. In my mind I was ready to have some sort of disagreement with him, but he didn't go there at all. He seemed to genuinely look at my mom with affection, and I had to admit she seemed happy. It looked different on her. Good. I wasn't sure I'd ever really seen her look that way.
We ate and Cliff asked after my friends. So I described Parker to him, referring to him as my brother, and Travis as my boyfriend. He said he was looking forward to meeting them, and I kind of believed him. My mom shooed us out into the living room while she finished loading the dishwasher. Cliff smiled at me somewhat ruefully as he sat.
"So, obvious attempt for us to talk one-on-one," he said gently.
I nodded. "Yeah. Subtle isn't what I'd call it."
He nodded slightly and wove his fingers together. "Shane, I'd like to tell you a family story. Maybe give you some perspective. My goal, of course, is to try and build something between us. I'll tell you now I love your mom, and I've waited for her for a while. I'll keep doing that, so however you and I end up, that isn't going to change." He paused. "I think we can both agree that things would be more pleasant all around if you and I could find some middle ground."
"Yeah, that's true," I agreed.
"So here's my story," he said as he shifted on the couch to look at me better. "My grandfather fought in World War Two. He didn't like to talk about it very much, but I'd like to tell you what he told me the day he taught me to fire his pistol." He paused and waited to see if I'd protest, I guess. My muscles tensed and I was mentally prepared to fight whatever he might be trying to sell me, but I let him go forward without a fight. Yet.
"When he taught me to use it it was the last time he ever fired it. He'd told me it had been put away for years, locked in the attic or something." He shook his head and looked away for a moment before returning his gaze to me. "I was all gung-ho about guns and the military and talking about how my grandpa was a war hero. He sat me down in his back yard and started to clean the gun while he explained things to me."
Cliff ran a hand over his neatly cropped beard and let out a small sigh. "He told me he'd killed men. He said it gave him nightmares he could never let go of. He told me he hadn't slept without seeing the faces of the dead for the last fifty-ish years. He told me a gun is not a toy. Then he told me that the people he'd killed...they didn't know each other. They'd not had a personal dispute. His blood wasn't boiling mad with hatred for the enemy. By the end of the war, he said, his unit was marching on German units that were made up of children."
He looked down and flexed his fingers. "He told me he hoped I'd never fire a weapon in anger or in war. He said he'd teach me to use it to defend myself, but that to shoot someone would forever change me, as it had him." Cliff looked up at me, his eyes shifting slightly as he took in my face. "If I'd gone through what you did, I might well feel as you do. I don't blame you. I respect you for identifying something you cannot be around and having the strength to make your needs known. It would be so much worse if you'd said nothing and moved in to make your mom happy and all the while be suffering and in fear."
I swallowed hard. I didn't think it was brave at all to lose my shit and tell my mom I wouldn't live with a weapon in the same house. I thought I was just afraid.
"One thing above all is you have to take care of yourself. You can't help anyone else if you're broken. I think you'd have a hard time being a good brother or boyfriend if you were in fear in your own home and having nightmares about things that provide me a sense of protection." He sighed. "My grandfather would have understood your pain in a way I can't. But because I loved him and I listened and learned from him how to respect a gun, I can empathize with how you feel. I know there are a lot of conflicting ideas about firearms in our country, and I wanted to tell you what I believe."
I cleared my throat. "Okay."
"I do believe in the right to bear arms, but I also believe in safety. I believe in licensing and practical uses like hunting or self defense. I don't believe in people having the power at their fingertips to assault schools or places of business. I think there is a reasonable ground to be found where the spirit of the second amendment and the rational will of people who don't want to be around firearms can be found." He locked his gaze to me. "People are more important than guns, and your mom is more important to me than guns."
I nodded slowly. "That all sounds good, I guess. I'm not sure what you expect me to say, though."
He smiled and placed his hands on his thighs. "Nothing, really. I just wanted you to know where I stood and to try and find out who you were. I'm not going to try and be a dad to you, but I would like us to be able to respect each other and be friendly. I think it's a reasonable goal. Would you agree?"
I turned it over in my head. "Yeah. It's a reasonable goal."
A knock came at the door and I excused myself to answer. I was a little surprised to find Parker, Travis and a tired looking Zane Thompson at my door. I'd expected Parker and Travis, of course, but Zane was a surprise.
"I'm sorry to show up uninvited," Zane said apologetically. "But I have to say, Travis forced me."
Noting the dark smudges under Zane's eyes, I smiled. "He can be tough when he wants to. Come in," I said as I stood aside and let them come in. I made introductions and we retreated to my room, since pie wasn't on offer yet.
"So I was telling Zane how we were trying to figure out what super hero he'd be with his cane. A sword cane, something cool like that," Parker said as he flopped onto my bed. Zane sat in the desk chair and I pulled Travis against me on the other side of the bed.
"He'd need a good name. What about the Canemaster?" I asked.
"That makes me sound a little geriatric," Zane said with a little smile. "What do I fight? Orderlies for my nightly pudding?"
"Zane would be the guy who they don't see coming. They'd discount him and then, with a quick move," Parker said as he leapt to his feet and did a funny little pirouette thing where he ended up pointing a fake sword back at us, "and quickly slice a jugular. Or something."
Zane's lip quirked in amusement and some of his fatigue seemed to slide from his face. "What about you, Parker? What role would you play?"
"I'd be like Spiderman. Quick with a line and a pretty girl on the hook."
"Speaking of Angela, did you call her?" I asked.
He rolled his eyes. "Yes, Mom," he said and flopped back onto the bed, making Travis and me bounce. "We said we missed each other and then sexted for a while." The room fell silent and Parker started to laugh. "Okay, I'm joking We just sexted."
I shook my head while he laughed.
"Like sister, like brother," Zane said quietly and we all laughed.
"She's tough. I mean, at least sexting means I won't get a bruise. Did you know she is talking about joining a hockey team?" Parker asked us.
"I think Clint mentioned something," Zane commented.
"Team sports. Eww," Travis said and laughed.
"She better be careful with you," I told him teasingly. "No more pain than you actually want."
"Eh." Parker blushed just slightly and my jaw dropped at the sight. "She changed after the talk the other day. Before, a make out was like a battle. She showed me something different before she left, after dinner." Parker glanced at Travis. "Trav, you cool if I talk about her?"
Travis waved a hand. "I'm over it."
Parker nodded. "Okay. Yeah, so, she flipped a switch, man. Instead of whatever that used to be, it was like she really wanted me to know she liked me. I have to admit, I got the message."
"Communication with a Fjeldsted can be confusing, but I find it very rewarding," Zane said, and he, too, had a little blush.
"Trav,"I whined. "How come they are the only ones who get to say they're getting some, huh? Why can't I tell them?"
"I never said you couldn't - what?" Travis asked as he craned round to look at me.
"Whoa, whoa," Parker said. "Shane, not cool. You're supposed to give me details behind his back. If that's how it is, Trav," he said, looking at my bewildered boyfriend. "Was he any good? Be honest."
Travis leaned back against me. "He knows he's perfect for me."
I grinned at Parker and he groaned. "Trav! Come on, man! How can we bust his nuts if you go all mushy and honest, huh?"
"So what would I be? I mean in this crime fighting thing?" Travis asked as he looked up at me, red faced and ignoring Parker's jibe.
"Safely at home," I told him.
"Nah," Parker jumped in. "He'd be the guy with the big computer, telling us where to go and to watch out for the huge army just around the corner. He'd be the brains."
Travis lifted an eyebrow at me and smiled. "I like Parker."
"Who doesn't?" I chuckled. "Okay, Parks, what about me? What's my role?"
Parker looked at Zane and smiled. Grinned. And Zane grinned back. I became suspicious. Together they said, "Sidekick."
I tilted my head. "Seriously? Sidekick? Pft!"
We talked animatedly for a while, coming up with identities and setting up imaginary missions. We kept it up over pie and I barely noticed if my mom and Cliff were amused or annoyed with us. At one point Zane started to make some notes and we teased him, asking if he was going to write a book. My mother interrupted our fun by breaking out a board game and we had a spirited competition. It was actually the best Thanksgiving I could remember.
The evening grew late, though, and Zane said he had to get going. I walked him to the door and Parker offered to walk with him.
"I can walk myself, thanks, though," Zane said.
"Zane. I gotta know the details of this book," Parker told him.
"Oh, Ulterior motive? I'll tell you the plot," Zane said and leaned in. "Everyone dies in the end."
"Okay, see? I have to give you a better story than that," Parker said firmly.
Zane laughed a little, indulging Parker I guess. He turned to me and smiled a little wider. "It's kind of stunk with Clint all the way out in New York. I know it wasn't planned, but thank you for including me."
"You're always welcome, Zane," I told him. "I had fun. I gotta keep tabs on you now, anyway. If you write a book I have to make sure I'm not a damn sidekick!"
"Sidekicks are a necessity, Shane," he replied and shook his finger at me.
"Seriously, though," I told him. "You looked pretty tired when you got here. You doing okay?"
Zane froze for a moment, his mind perhaps racing to decide what or how much to say. His eyes looked a tad shiny and he turned his gaze to regard me. "It's been hard. Home isn't a comfortable place right now. With Clint gone this week...well, I was grateful for Travis's insistence."
"Well, I can be insistent too. See you tomorrow?" I asked and held my hand out to him.
His upper lip shook as if a raw nerve were jumping and he took my hand. "Tomorrow, then."
Parker and Zane departed with my brother animatedly gesticulating as they headed down the sidewalk. I shook my head and smiled at them.
"Travis? Are you staying the night?" My mom asked.
He glanced at me. "Um. I have permission if Shane wants," he said.
"I want," I told him and playfully squeezed and lifted him.
"Stop. Put me down, nerd!" he said with a laugh.
"Okay," my mother said and make an odd choking laugh. "Well, don't stay up all night. Cliff? I'm going to open that bottle of wine. Would you like a glass?"
"Oh, I'm driving," he said with a wince.
"No, you're not," she said and I cringed.
"Trav, come on. I do not want to watch my mom flirt." I led him back into my room and closed the door.
"Shane, I have to ask you something," he said.
"Sure. What is it?" I asked as I sat on the bed.
He stood nearby and looked down at me. "That whole...Travis blanket thing. Is it real? Does that really make you feel safe?"
I smiled and let out a breath. "It's the most relaxing, comfortable thing I know. I wish I'd known before. I wish I tried to date you before."
Tension flowed out of his form with my answer and he looked at me, I think, fondly. "I didn't really...deal with being bisexual until a few months ago. I'm not sure it'd have worked like it is now." He paused and looked at me shyly. "I like lying with you, too. I like hearing your heartbeat."
I tilted my head. "Trav. If you want to lay down, just say so. Do you seriously think I'd say no?"
He smiled tightly and shook his head. "No. But...I love you, Shane."
I melted a little. "And I love you, Travis."
"I was afraid this would leak so I stashed it under your pillow," he said as he climbed onto the bed and sat on me. He bent over and kissed me lightly and my heart fluttered.
"Stashed what?" I asked a little breathlessly.
He stretched past me and reached under my pillow. He paused and kissed me again and I stopped caring about what he'd stashed as I pulled him down and spent a good few minutes kissing the heck out of my boyfriend. He sat up and smiled, pressing his palm down on my pants and feeling my erection.
"I guess you really are attracted to me," he said demurely. "I'm glad I brought this. I mean, if you want to."
He lifted his hand and showed me a small bottle of clear lube. My eyes widened and I looked up at him.