My thanks to Ricky for beta reading.
I watched the Lacrosse team bus leave the parking lot a little wistfully. Ever since Robin and I had agreed that sports wasn't the best thing for me or us, I'd been reduced to a spectator. I was sort-of okay with that since I don't consider myself a sports kind of guy; I only played to share the experience with Robin. Unfortunately that also meant I missed out on things like this weekend, an invitational tournament that would be held near Buffalo. My parents flat refused to let me drive that far and that was that.
“You'd think he hadn't kissed him for, what? Twenty minutes?”
My mouth curved into a smile as I turned to face Austin, who was always game to tease me. His boyfriend, Derek, was giving him a little side-eye.
“I hope you look like that when it's been that long since you kissed me,” Derek said.
“Well, we can go longer because our...yeah, I'm just going to stop there,” Austin said, grinning insolently.
“Please,” I said to Derek, “He wouldn't notice if we all disappeared as long as he had his books!”
“I know!” Derek said. “I can prove it, too!”
“No,” Austin groaned.
“So we were fooling around at my place, right? All of a sudden we hear Mrs. Abramowitz – you know, the lady downstairs?”
“Yeah,” I said, encouraged at Hamster's reddening face.
“Now, mind you, the lady doesn't have a key to our apartment or anything, but,” Derek glanced meaningfully at Austin. “Someone was in too much of a hurry to close the front door. So here we are, scrambling to get decent – and I can't find my underwear.”
I burst out in giggles and Hamster groaned, grabbed his boyfriend and begged him to stop. Derek, however, was enjoying this too much.
“So there I am, looking around – mind you, he's pulled his shirt and pants on. Do you think he can help me get dressed? No!” Derek shoved Austin away playfully. “He's already pulled a book out so he can play it cool!”
“No way!” I laughed as Austin colored.
“I had an ulterior motive! I just didn't think it through,” he said between his own laughter. “I mean, come on! Derek was naked! Why would I want him to cover up?”
“So I didn't give my downstairs neighbor a stroke?” Derek asked and I was in stitches, leaning against my bus.
“Hey,” Austin said, trying to frown through his laughter. “I haven't even...never mind!”
“Whoa, what?” I asked, giggling. “What did you just almost say?”
“Nothing!” they both said, red-faced and laughing.
“I'm pretty sure it was something,” I said, trying to keep a straight face and failing miserably.
“Can we just leave? My dad texted that he needed me home right after school,” Derek said.
“Okay. But this isn't over!” I said, pointing my finger at Derek, then at Austin and back again.
“Yeah, yeah. Come on,” Austin said. I dropped them each off at their homes and then went home, myself. No one was home yet, as usual, but there was no homework night to look forward to, either. I put my book bag on the kitchen table, got a drink and sat down to clear all the junk out of it. I had a habit of stuffing anything that was handed to me inside it and then never giving it to my parents.
There were old notices for bake sales, various club functions and social activities – nothing too concerning. After that I hung it up in my bedroom closet and headed downstairs and slumped onto the couch. Normally on a Friday – or any day that ended in 'Y' – I'd have plans with Robin. I was sure Austin and Derek would have plans, not to mention Griffin and Devyn. Alec and Sasha were still at school for a while, yet and the same for Chase and Kale.
I entertained the thought of hanging out with Jamie and Sean, but they likely had some plans of their own as well. Jesus, so this was what being single felt like?
My phone buzzed with a message. 'I'm rooming with Tim Donnelly'
'Tell him I said to keep his hands to himself'
He sent me a smiley face, rolling its eyes. I was thinking of a response when the phone rang in my hand, kind of startling me. Even worse, the display said 'You're in Trouble #1' and the ring tone for Mom was the Imperial March from Star Wars. You know, the music whenever Darth Vader is on screen. Gotta love Alec.
“Hi, honey. Are you at home?”
“Yeah. Want me to take something from the freezer for dinner?” I asked as I walked out to the kitchen.
“Yes, please, some chicken. You aren't planning on going out tonight, right? Robin is out of town?”
“Yeah,” I groaned. “He's gone.”
“He'll be back,” she snickered.
“Did you call just to make fun of my pain?” I asked, laughing.
“No, Mr. Sloane called. You remember him?”
“My lawyer,” I said with a falsely serious tone. “Can I ask him to object to something? I never got to do that.”
“Well, you might. He's stopping by about 5:30, so make sure you're home.”
“Okay,” I said, stretching the word out. “Why?”
“I'm not entirely sure. He spoke to your dad so we'll all find out together. See you soon,” she said and we hung up.
I'd only met Mr. Sloane a handful of times, but he'd handled all the legal paperwork for my adoption and gotten my name changed and all that. As part of that process, the Kutsenko's were now listed on my birth certificate. I felt a little bad about that, since my memories of my dad were mostly good. Of course, when I stopped to think about it, they really weren't all that great – I just hadn't had anything to compare it to at the time.
After taking the chicken out to thaw, I resumed my spot on the couch and used up some data on my phone watching videos and generally wasting time.
My parents got home a little while later and there was the usual round of questions about how each other's days went and things like that. They both picked on me a little for missing Robin, because they are evil. With dinner started, Mr. Sloane arrived and after greeting everyone, we were all seated in the living room, mom and I on the couch, and waiting to hear what he had to say.
“So, I got a call today from an attorney in Binghamton, a guy I'm familiar with. He had the paperwork sent over to me for review. Tactically, he's trying to force us to react, so keep that in mind as I fill you in.”
“React to what?” my dad asked.
“Apparently, Mrs. Rousseau has gotten the treatment she needed and has regained custody of her daughter-”
“She has Claire?” I blurted, interrupting. Mr. Sloane turned his head to me and nodded.
“Yes, Claire. She is planning to sue the state, claiming that they improperly freed Lucien for adoption and that her parental rights should never have been terminated,” he said, looking mostly between my parents.
“What? She can't be serious!” my mother said, reaching out and pulling me to her. “Everything was done legally, wasn't it, Alan?”
“Yes.” Mr. Sloane confirmed. “At least, everything on our end. Her argument will require looking at DCFS records, but here's the short version. A child has to be in care for a period of 15 months in New York State in order to be eligible to be freed for adoption. Freed, in this case, means terminating the surviving parent's rights.
“She is claiming that the state freed Lucien after only 13 months in care. If that's true, then she may have cause for a grievance,” he said, spreading out his hands in a gesture of helplessness.
“So...wait, what are you saying?” I asked, my voice tinged with alarm.
“Well, that depends on the facts,” he said, hedging. “We had the court order freeing you for adoption to work with, so we had no problem going forward. Looking at your placement history, you were in care over 15 months, total – a year with your foster – now adoptive – parents and about six months prior. However, she's saying that the state filed earlier than the 15 month minimum requirement. If that's the case, then she may have grounds to disrupt your adoption. That's worst case scenario.”
“Disrupt? What does that mean?” I asked, panic rising in my voice. “She's trying to take me away from my family?”
“Lucien, sit down honey,” mom said, tugging on my arm.
I sat, slowly, watching the lawyer and waiting for him to tell me what I had just asked wasn't true, to reassure me that my past wasn't about to destroy my present.
“The term 'disrupt' is a legal term for when an adoption is undone.” Mr. Sloane placed his hands out flat, placating me. “I should remind you that this is in the very early stages and things like this tend to go very slow. Now that she has filed this motion, it has to make its way through family court. That, in itself, will be an issue because of Judge Kirkwood.”
“He won't let her take me,” I said confidently.
“Well,” Mr. Sloane said, frowning, “Judge Kirkwood knows you personally – as well as your parents. He'll be called on to recuse himself.”
“What does that mean?” I asked, fear tickling like a feather in my chest.
“When a judge recuses themselves from a legal proceeding it's because they aren't impartial. I think it's fair to say, Judge Kirkwood doesn't want you going anywhere.”
“So...what, then?” my father asked.
“Well, right now the ball is in the state's hands. Unlike a normal lawsuit, this one will take place in family court. It may take more than one meeting – these kinds of issues frequently do. The judge will review the facts of the case and, likely, will want to hear from all the affected parties.”
“But...Judge Kirkwood told me the purpose of family court was to look out for the best interests of the child. How can this be in my best interests?” I asked.
“Well, as your birth parent, your mother has rights, too. If she can prove that the state acted improperly, then she may be able to sue for a disruption. If that happens then she would likely also sue for custody, in which case you'd return to her care under the supervision of DSS.”
“What?” I felt like I'd been sucker-punched. I couldn't breathe, my thought and emotions ranging far and wide. I held my hands out to Mr. Sloane in desperation. “Isn't there anything we can do? I don't want to leave!”
“Keep in mind, what I just stated is the worst case scenario. The state will have to disclose its records to the court, first. If it's determined there is something to her contention at that stage, we can still fight based on the fact that we proceeded with an adoption in good faith based on the legal documentation provided by the state. On our end, we can drag this out.” He held up his finger to us and then added, “Well, you'll recall that I said this other lawyer was trying to provoke a response?”
“Yes. What did you mean?” my dad asked.
“There was a suggestion that she'd like to meet with Lucien. There is a possibility that, should he say so to her, she might be willing to drop the suit.” He held up a hand as we all started talking at once. Waving our questions down he said, “As your lawyer, I have to advise you that this is a risk. She is asking this way because adoption records in New York as sealed. This means she doesn't know where you are, yet.”
“Is there a real chance that I could talk her out of this?”
Mr. Sloane's face furrowed. “My gut says 'no'. I'm sure you can be persuasive, and I think you should try, but I don't want to raise false hopes. Her contention is serious and we should take it as such.”
Mr. Sloane departed shortly afterward, promising to keep us apprised. I stayed in the company of my parents all evening, feeling vulnerable and threatened. I wanted Alec home to tell me this was not going to happen. I wanted Robin – needed Robin – home, to hold me, to keep this miserable thing at bay. Jesus.
I went to bed early, not even wanting to reply to Robin's silly videos of the team having pillow fights in the rooms. Coaches could be heard hollering in the background, but it took almost no time for the team to start doing stupid things, again. As much as I wanted to talk to him, to hear him and feel better, I knew I couldn't. He'd be worried and he needed to focus while he was there and it would be selfish of me to tell him now. Besides, there was nothing he could do.
Still, at the end of the night, I watched endlessly the Vine he made of himself under his covers. He was smiling, that shy little grin that told me he felt a little silly doing this, but also I'm sure he was trying to be quiet so his roomie didn't tease him too hard. So there he was, smiling, and saying 'Goodnight, Lucien. I love you.'
Oh, God. I love you, too, Robin.
The next day I felt the need for company so I headed over to see Austin. His Aunt let me in and told me he was lazing about in his room, probably reading. I kicked off my shoes and headed up to his room where, sure enough, he was reading.
“Hey, Austin,” I greeted him, flopping down on his bed.
He peered over his book at me and placed a bookmark before regarding me. “What are you doing awake?”
“What are you talking about?”
“It's nine o'clock on a Saturday. Usually you have another solid hour before you even have to get up and pee.”
“Oh, you think you know me so well?” I asked.
“Please. You really want to go there?”
“Okay, fine, so I'm up early,” I grumbled. “Want to do something?”
“I have to go to Derek's for a while,” he replied. “I'm sure he'll tell you, considering you've practically adopted him-”
“Nothing wrong with a good adoption,” I grinned. “Besides, Derek is too cool for words. Why is he dating you, again?”
“He thinks I have a phenomenal body,” Austin replied in a monotone.
“Is that all? I thought there was more to him than that!” I grinned.
“You know what I don't get?” Austin asked and then continued without waiting for me to reply. “You can say anything and Derek just loves you. Me? I get slapped.”
“You also get laid.”
“So, what were you saying about my adopted brother? Second brother? Little brother? And hey, what exactly do you mean by that, anyway?”
Austin pushed his foot against me and shoved me off the bed, where I landed with a thump. Scrambling up I attacked him and soon we were both rolling on the floor, but there was never any real question. Austin had me pinned in just under a second and a half and as he leaned in to gloat I wormed an arm free and tickled him. Just like that, I had the upper hand and proceeded to give him a run for his money. In the end, of course, he was stronger than I was despite me having a year on him, and he pinned me.
“You know, if Derek could see this now...” I trailed off, leaving the suggestion to linger in the air. Austin started laughing and, looking down at me, told me in no uncertain terms what the deal was.
“First off, you don't look at anyone besides Robin. Secondly, even if you did, you'd never hurt me or Derek. Your threat is worthless,” he giggled.
“Fine! I'm a great boyfriend and a perfect best friend! It's my burden!” I said dramatically. He tweaked my nipple before climbing off me, which really was an act of instigation. I followed through and tickled him some more and we wrestled until his uncle poked his head in and told us to cut it out.
We sat on his bed, our backs propped against the wall, and caught our breath.
“So, what was all that adopted shit about? And what's Derek going to tell me?”
“Derek just feels real close to you, that's all. I only got part of the conversation, it had more to do with he and Griff. Oh, you know.”
“No, I don't. I mean, sure, Derek is great and everything, but adoption? What's up with that?”
“Just some things that got said, I guess. He can tell you.”
“Is that what you meant earlier? He'd tell me anyway?”
“No, no,” Austin said, shaking his head. “His dad wanted he and his sister home right after school, yesterday. I guess his mom was suing for custody of him.”
“What?” I said, my back stiffening. “She wants to take him away from us? What is it with...ugh!”
“Well, hang on. I'd have called you if it was that bad, right?” he said. “His dad wanted him to know, but the lawyer says it won't fly. I guess she is saying that his dad works too much and can't provide him with proper supervision and that's why he's gay.”
“Are you...you're fucking with me,” I said, my jaw hanging open.
“Nope,” Austin said, shaking his head. “I guess, according to the lawyer, the guy she left Derek's dad for walked out on her. He thinks it's all about money, that she can get more out of his dad if she has custody of one or both of the kids.”
“That's sick,” I said. “What about Chloe? Was she trying for custody of her, too?”
“I guess Chloe told her to shove it,” Austin laughed. “Legally both the kids get a say in who they live with, so she has no chance. It does kind of suck, though. I feel bad for Derek having such a bitch for a mom.”
“Yeah, it does suck,” I said. “Actually, Austin... I came over early because I'm having some problems of my own.” I folded my hands one over the other, moving them restlessly.
“Really? Out of you and I, your home has always been perfect. What's going on?” he asked, turning to give me his attention.
So I told him. After I'd spilled the facts as the lawyer laid them out, I got a little teary talking about how scary the idea was of leaving everyone behind – losing them all, my found family.
“You can't lose us, Lu. You know that. You must know that.” Austin gave me a side hug and I rested my head on his shoulder.
“But I won't be here. Remember what Derek said about his old friends after he moved away? Plus, how am I supposed to stay with Robin? Long distance relationships...they almost never work.”
“Nothing can break you two, not if all the numb-skull things you do hasn't already,” Austin chuckled, squeezing me. “You guys are unbreakable.”
“I hope so. My worst fear is losing people,” I said, my voice dropping to a whisper.
“Come on, let's go over and see Derek. He can tell you about the adoption stuff. Pretty sure he'll get all embarrassed.”
“You like embarrassing your boyfriend?” I asked, glad to be leaving my own issues behind.
“Sure. He gets these red spots right on his cheekbones. It's freaking adorable.”
After he got dressed we headed over to see Derek, who wasn't alone. Griffin and Devyn were there, too, and I was stupidly jealous of these pairings while my Robin was elsewhere. We sat in his living room with his sister, Chloe, while he retold the story of his mother's legal maneuvers.
“I still can't believe her,” Chloe said. “I mean, she left dad for that loser, Duane. If that wasn't bad enough, she destroys our store in the divorce, wrecks our lives and now she is acting like she wants us back?” She snorted and flipped her hair. “It's aggravating. Austin, take your shirt off.”
“What? Why?” he asked, as some snickering could be heard by the rest of us.
“I need something to make me feel better after all this depressing talk. Why should Derek have all the fun? Am I right, Lucien? Guys?”
“Um, I get the fun because I'm dating him?” Derek replied. Then he glanced at Austin, “But I'm totally okay with you taking your shirt off.”
“What am I, a slab of meat?” Austin asked, spreading his arms out. Derek slid over and wrapped his arms around Austin's torso.
“Nah. I just like you with less clothes.”
“Well, the feeling is mutual,” he said and they snuggled down while Chloe rolled her eyes at me.
“So what's new with you, handsome?”
“Oh, uh,” I stuttered. I kind of didn't want to wreck Derek's cuddle vibe, but I didn't have a lot to talk about besides my new legal problem.
“His mom is being a bitch, too,” Austin supplied.
“Really? Your mom is great, I wish she'd adopt me, too,” Derek replied. He had his head resting on Austin's chest as he addressed me, idly playing with Austin's fingers.
“Um, he means my biological mother.” So, for the second time, I told them what was going on. Things felt weird, but undeniably good, as they all expressed dismay at the thought of losing me. Even then, I was unprepared for just how good it felt as Derek pulled me to my feet and wrapped me in a hug that was exactly what I was needing. He was also crying, bordering on outright sobs and I was getting pretty weepy myself.
“This can't happen,” he said, whispering in my ear. “There has to be something we can do. After everything we've all been through? No, I can't take it.”
As unprepared as I was for that, when Devyn hugged me from one side and Griff did the other, I was feeling awkward and safe all rolled into one. I loved these guys, but I never really thought too much about it going both ways. It felt good, being cared for.
“I...I'm scared.” I pulled back a touch and Derek relaxed his grip, but pulled me over to the couch and sat me down between he and Austin. Devyn and Griffin shoved the love seat over a bit so they were looking at us more directly.
“What is it with bitchy mothers?” Chloe growled from her chair. “Well, if Austin isn't stripping off clothes, I'm going to get cleaned up and go shopping.” With a meaningful look at Austin she stood and left the room.
“Lu, I remember someone saying you were adopted at some point but you're so...natural with your parents, I thought I must be mistaken. I just don't understand why your mother is doing this after you're successfully adopted and doing well?” Griffin asked.
“Uh,” I glanced down at my hands. “Well, the thing is-”
“You don't have to,” Griffin interrupted. “I don't know why I said that.”
My view of my shoes was interrupted by Devyn, reaching up with his petite hand and lifting my face by my chin.
'My boyfriend is trying to say he cares. He knows you listened to his pain and he wants to be there for yours. We all do.'
I ruffled his hair. “Thanks, Dev. I know. It's hard to say, but you guys have told me a lot that talking about it helps. And Griff, you should know, it's not that I wouldn't want you to know. If it had come up another way, I wouldn't think twice. But it's more real now, that this is happening.”
“I know it's not my right to know, or anything, Lu,” Griffin said quietly.
“I know. Uh, so, I lived with my dad after my folks divorced. I was kind of young so I didn't really miss my mom that much. Dad was good to me and my sister-”
“You have a sister?” Derek exclaimed.
“Yeah. Claire. Um,” I cleared my throat. “So Dad did a pretty good job, until he had a few at an after work party and he wrecked his truck. He died.”
There were murmurs of remorse, but I quickly kept going. “Social services found my mom after a month or so. We went to live with her, but things were never really right. She used to accuse us of stealing things or...whatever. So we got moved, again, to a family in Binghamton. They were really, really religious. They were really anti-gay and my sister kind of...converted. Then she outed me.”
“Oh my God.” I didn't look up to see who said it.
“So, they kind of scared the crap out of me with their praying and splashing me with holy water. They dropped me off at social services, and then I got put into a group home until Alec found me.” I glanced around at them. “I know Dev and Griff haven't met him, but Derek and Austin have. They can tell you, he's the greatest. He made sure I had a good home. He started school late to be with me for my adoption – he and his boyfriend, Sasha. I try everyday to be the kind of person he is.”
“If you're like him, he must be great,” Griffin said and I shot him an embarrassed smile.
“Tell him about your adoption stuff, he'll feel better,” Austin prompted Derek.
“You have such a big mouth, Austin,” Derek frowned at him before softening his look at turning to face me. “I wasn't going to say anything, it was just something Griff and I were talking about and I shared with my boyfriend.”
“You say Austin has a big mouth? That was between us!” Griffin laughed. Devyn gave me a wry grin and started flashing signs with his hands.
'Griff likes you so much, I told him he should be dating you instead.'
“Devyn!” Griff said, slapping his arm and causing the rest of us to laugh at him.
“You don't have to say anything. It'd be nice to talk about something other than our crazy parents, though.”
“No, it's okay. It's not a bad thing, just, you know, not something I planned to say,” he replied, and his mouth twisted into a grin. “I was telling Austin about a conversation Griff and I had. I was telling Griff how fast you had accepted me into your group and how people seemed to think I needed your approval before I was one of you or something.”
“That's nuts. Where did you get that idea from?” I said with a laugh.
“Well, like when I saw your bus? They told me if you liked me I'd get invited to help work on it. You invited me into your study group and yours was the second phone number I got when I got to town.” Derek smiled, red splotches appearing on his cheekbones. “The truth is your acceptance made me feel welcome and comfortable.”
“Well,” I said, and cleared my throat. “I think everyone liked you. I don't think that, you know, I was any more important than anyone else in that.”
“As far as I go,” Griff took up the story, “You were the one that reached out to me and let me know I wasn't alone. All the friends I have, even my boyfriend, I can trace back to you and that one act of kindness. Maybe Alec is the best as far as you're concerned, but I'll be happy if I can be a little more like you, everyday.”
“Jeez, Griff,” I said, trying not to be stupidly mushy. “I don't know what to say.”
“Anyway, Austin and I have to work at one, but I don't want to leave you alone. Alec and Sasha should be on their way.” Derek said, levering himself up off the couch and going to find his phone.
“I'm not on suicide watch,” I said defensively. “And Alec has a final to study for, I hope you didn't call him!”
“Lu, don't fight it,” Austin said, pushing me.
Chloe reappeared and dressed to go out. She leaned over the couch and hugged me from behind. “Things will work out.”
“Thanks,” I said, patting her arm awkwardly.
“And you,” she addressed Austin. “I just look at you and I feel pregnant. Jesus, I need a boyfriend!” So saying she headed out of the apartment.
“Jeez, Austin, your ego must be huge,” I giggled along with Devyn and Griff.
“It's kind of embarrassing, actually,” he said. “I only started lifting because I was bored. I don't even work out, really, except to maintain what I have already. I don't want to look like some massive 'roid head.”
“Yeah, but come on. As a bi guy, it must feel good to know you turn on both sides,” I teased him.
“Not really,” he replied, his mouth twisting into a half-grin. “I'm just glad I have Derek.”
“Yeah, he is pretty damn cool.”
“They both are,” Griff supplied.
“Okay. Austin and I are working until five, Alec said he should be here in a half an hour and we're going out for pizza after,” Derek said as he returned and resumed his spot on the couch.
“Derek, I told you, I don't have to be babied,” I protested.
“This isn't babying you, it's called being your friend. Now stop struggling and let us do this for you,” he laughed and shoved me into Austin, who then shoved me back to Derek. I tried to resist and then they crushed me between the two of them. I have such strange, but kind of wonderful, friends.
I dropped them off at the IGA a little later on and headed home. As Derek had promised, Alec's car was out front. I pulled up and was barely in the door before Alec's voice filled the house.
“Why didn't anyone think to call me?” Alec's voice boomed through the house.
“Alec, calm down,” Mom said, sternly.
“Son, take a deep breath,” Dad followed up.
“But he's my brother! She can't have him!”
I stepped into the kitchen and Alec spotted me and pointed at me, “Why didn't you call me?”
“Because you have finals. I didn't want you to be distracted.”
“Nothing is more important, you hear me?”
“What about Sasha?”
“I think you're more important than studying right now,” Sash said. I hadn't seen him lurking in a doorway.
“I just didn't want...I didn't want you to worry.”
“It's bad enough I had to hear about it from Derek, and I'm royally pissed no one could lift the phone up. Now, come here, dammit!” He held his arms out to me and I grabbed onto him, feeling safe and secure as I always had around my big brother.
“I'm sorry,” I said to him.
“Don't ever do it again,” he said, holding me at arms length and looking into my eyes. “You never hesitate to call when you need me, understand? My ego can't take it.”
I smiled. “I'll always need you, Alec.”
“That's more like it,” he said and crushed me to him.
“Okay, give him to me,” Sasha said as he pulled me away and held me.
“I'm getting a lot of hugs today,” I said into his shoulder.
“Yeah? I guess people want you to know you're loved and important. Do you feel loved and important?”
“Yeah. I do.”
“Then it's working.”
I hung out with Alec and Sasha for the afternoon and then we all headed over to get Derek and Austin from work. Derek had already asked Devyn and Griff to meet us for pizza, but Alec violently nixed us going to the local chain pizza place in favor of an independent.
“What is up with the hate?” I asked him, after he'd put his foot down.
“They might have my picture up in there. As in 'do not let him in' or 'spit in his food'.”
“What...I don't understand,” I said, laughing.
“Alec was supposed to work this morning,” Sasha supplied. “His boss wouldn't let him leave early, and you know he was antsy to get on the road.”
“Oh, no! Alec? Did you quit?”
“What did you do?” Austin asked, grinning.
“A customer,” Sasha said, through his giggles, “asked Alec if the restaurant had a bathroom. He replied, 'No. We shit on the landscaping'.”
The bus was filled with the sounds of 'eww' and laughter as Alec kept saying things to defend himself like 'Wasn't it a stupid question?' and 'He didn't ask where it was, he asked if we had one! I mean, come on!'.
At dinner Alec grilled both Devyn and Griffin since he didn't know them. At one point I had to remind him they weren't potential boyfriends, but he handled it with his typical flair.
“Look, I'm sure they are all going to want to stay over to watch you tonight. I have to know you're in good hands because Sash's dads will not forgive us if we don't go over there tonight.”
“We haven't talked about anyone staying over!” I protested.
“Um,” Griffin waved a hand. “Actually, we took a vote. We're all coming over.”
“A vote? Where was I?”
'You didn't get a vote.' Devyn signed, snickering.
“Lucien! Shut up!” Derek said, laughing. “Your friends love you and want to sleep over! Deal with it!”
“I...okay, okay,” I said, rolling my eyes. “No crying, though.”
Devyn put his hand on my shoulder and he signed, just where I could see. 'There will be hugs.'
It was hard not to smile at Dev, especially with the big eyes he was giving me.
“Okay, fine,” I said and sighed. I guess with friends like these, I could take anything my mom could throw at me. I just needed Robin back.
“I'm not done vetting these guys yet,” Alec announced. He fixed Griffin with a look and then turned his attention to Devyn. “I want to know if you have a plan for dealing with your boyfriend and his love of older men.”
Devyn's face turned into a quizzical frown as he glanced around at us for help.
“You mean he didn't tell you?” Alec said, his face looking around the table like he was stunned.
“Alec, what are you talking about?” I asked.
“This...pervert with exceptional taste,” he said, pointing at Griffin, “was drooling over Kale – who is way too old for him, by the way.”
“I've never even met Kale!” Griffin protested.
“Yeah, but you saw him with his shirt off and that sexy little smile, didn't you? Then you said you wanted to get into his pants!” Alec punctuated this with a finger to the sky, as if he'd made some great point of order in court or something.
Devyn signed and Alec looked to me for interpretation. “Devyn said the picture was pretty hot.”
“Yes, it was – but you must have noticed your boyfriend is pretty good looking. What's your plan for keeping him home?” Alec asked.
Devyn shrugged and signed. Alec turned to me and I said, “He says he kisses him until he puts down the GQ ad.”
“Hey!” Griffin said, putting his hands on his hips. Devyn, on cue, grabbed Griffin and kissed him until we all started to hoot at them. Griff struggled a little at first, but then put his hands around Devyn and was breathless when Devyn pulled back with a grin.
“Griff, you want to meet Kale?” I asked.
“You know what? Devyn's a genius. Did I tell you, Devyn, I've seen Kale's little smile in person?” Alec asked.
“Okay! I think everyone is about done,” Sash announced.
“But Sash!” Alec protested.
“No, Alec!” Sasha said, pointing a finger at him.
We had a lot of running around and picking up people's bags and stuff. Griff and Dev said they'd meet us at my house and left in Griff's car. Then I had to take Derek and Austin to their homes for overnight bags before we could go home. Alec was making jokes and trying to embarrass me, which was impossible because I was so glad he was home.
Once back at home, Austin and Derek went inside and Alec stayed me with a hand on my shoulder. I turned to face he and Sash.
“Have you told Robin?” he asked.
“Not yet. He's away at a lacrosse meet and it'd just worry him.”
“Don't you think he should know, Sweetie?” Sash asked.
“Yeah, of course. But not until he gets back. He can't come home sooner and if I tell him now, he's just going to worry about me. If his worry would help I'd have called him right away. As it is, it won't. I'll see him tomorrow and explain...well,” I licked my lips and glanced between them. “I never told Robin everything about my mom. He knew some stuff, but he's never pried into my past.”
“Robin wouldn't judge you for any of that,” Alec said confidently.
“No, but...schizophrenia is hereditary, Alec. Just having my mom be schizo gives me a ten percent chance of developing it myself. If my dad was, too - which I don't know – then I have about a sixty percent chance. How long do you think Robin will want to date a ticking time bomb of mental disease?”
Sasha reached out and took both my hands in his. “You're an idiot. You know that, right?”
“No, Alec, someone has to tell him. Maybe he'll believe me,” Sasha said before turning his gaze back to me. “We love you, Lu. You don't stop loving people if they get sick. Robin won't let that stop him from loving you and you're doing him a disservice by not being honest.”
“I never lied.”
“But you keep a deep seated fear that somehow, someway we're all going to leave you. No matter what we go through with you, no matter how much we tell you or show you we love you – still, that fear is there.” He squeezed my hands and pulled me close, and spoke softly into my ear. “Whenever you feel that fear, you need to reach out to us and let us help you squash it – every time. Making a decision based on fear is always, always a recipe for heart break.”
“The truth is, Lu, I'm not so pissed about what she's trying to pull. Yeah, it sucks and we'll fight it even if we have to kidnap you and hide you in our dorm room,” Alec said, ruffling my hair. “What hurts me most is when you need me and you don't call. I know Robbie takes good care of you, I'm not saying he doesn't – but you need your family and friends right now, all of us. You need to know we'll fight this. And even if she wins, you'll never lose us, Lu. We're your family, no matter what.”
“Your friends are waiting,” Sash said softly, wiping my eyes with his thumbs. “Go, and let them do their jobs. They all want to take care of you, I can see it. We'll see you in the morning, okay?”
“Okay,” I agreed, my voice thick with emotion.
Later that night we settled down in the living room. As it turns out, Alec had told my folks that my friends would likely want to stay with me and they, of course, were all for it. My parents are great people, really – they had to be to raise, and survive, my brother. My friends didn't even make it through the first movie before they were all asleep. Glancing down at them I was hit again with a pang of longing for Robin.
Derek's head lay on Austin's chest, and Austins' arm held Derek close. Griff and Devyn, by contrast, kept shifting in their sleep – one minute spooning and another facing away from each other. I'd been lying awake for about an hour when Griff started to mumble in his sleep. I sat up on the couch, wondering if he was a talker and if he might say something funny. Instead he clutched the blankets and let out a low moan. He thrashed a little, and uncovered Devyn next to him, who just mumbled and lay on his back.
Griff fell silent and I was vaguely disappointed I had nothing to tease him with in the morning. Well, maybe I could make something up? As I glanced down at him the light of the moon shifted through the windows and landed on Devyn, who wasn't wearing a shirt. I lifted an eyebrow and admired my friends chest, which was more developed than I'd have thought. When did he find time for that, I wonder?
My musing was interrupted by Griff, who suddenly began to breathe hard and let out small whimpers. He twitched and moved restlessly and his mouth was moving, then he fell silent. I sat up and was thinking of waking him, since I knew he had nightmares, when he suddenly sat up and inhaled an enormous breath and then shuddered as he slumped forward. I was off the couch and reaching for him in a moment.
“Griff? Griffin, are you okay?”
“What? Oh. Oh, Lu. Yeah, sorry. I just...” He shook his head as if clearing it.
“Seemed like a nightmare, man.”
“Yeah. It was,” Griffin replied, his body shaking with the memory and his breath heaving.
“Want some water? Get a breath of air?”
“Yeah. Yeah, I think so,” he said and I held my hand out to help him up. He glanced down, making sure Devyn was still asleep and, noting his bare chest, covered him with the blanket. I led the way into the kitchen and got us each a glass of water and then we went out onto the deck and leaned against the railing.
Not wanting to jump into his nightmare, in case he didn't want to talk about it, I said, “So who knew Devyn had such a nice chest, huh?”
“Hey,” Griffin said, his voice teasing. “Don't you go trying to steal him from me.”
“Who said anything about stealing?” I grinned. “I'm just saying, who knew?”
“He's been exercising,” Griffin said. “We've talked a lot, you know? It's been really good getting to know him.”
“What does talking have to do with him exercising?”
“Well...this is going to sound stupid.”
“Hey, we're just talking, here. We can talk about something else. I only mentioned it because, well, we needed something to talk about and we'd both just seen your boyfriend half naked.” I snickered and Griff joined me.
“No, I'm just being silly, I guess.” Griffin took a sip of water and then looked down before speaking. “Devyn has listened to me talk about the whole ordeal with Royce with an endless amount of patience. He's never gotten mad if things get...hot...and I have to stop. You know,” he said, ducking his head.
“Yeah, I get it. Devyn's a sweetheart.”
“He's way more than that,” Griff said, letting out a stuttering laugh. “We got to talking once and he asked what I saw in Royce – you know, before he started his...”
“Abuse, yeah. What did you say?”
“Uh, well, physically Royce was good looking. I mean, he was a jock with a nice body and all. I liked his muscles and...well, the rest of it wasn't that great. But that's what attracted me to him originally.”
“Anyway, Devyn was talking to me about how he looked nothing like Royce – not tall or strong or athletic.”
“He's also not an abusive asshole,” I snorted.
“Well, he didn't want to hear all that. He just started this silly exercise program because he thinks I like muscles. Don't get me wrong, Devyn does look good and I can see the changes in his body but...I don't know, I just think it's so sweet that he's doing all that just because he thinks it's what I want.”
“I guess you got lucky there, huh?”
“Oh man, you're not kidding. When Royce used to kiss me...” Griffin looked away for a moment, maybe gathering his resolve to speak about his abuser. “At first I was excited and felt good about it. Later, it was just something I had to do, something to do so I didn't get hit, or worse. Devyn has shown me what kissing is all about, though.”
“Well, since I'll never kiss him, I'll take your word for it,” I laughed.
“Yeah, he's all mine, Kutsenko.” Griffin smiled and then fell silent Softly he said, “Lu? Can I tell you something a little...mushy?”
“Oh, not you too, Griff?” I chuckled.
“No, really,” he said, putting a hand on my shoulder. “Can I? Please?”
I shifted awkwardly and nodded to him. “Okay.”
Griff just looked at me for a minute and I was growing concerned that he was going to say something truly awful or...I don't know what. I guess he was just gathering his courage.
“I spent a year getting the shit scared out of me, getting beat on and raped. I was so scared and I thought no one could help me, that no one would. I was cut off from the world. Then, you and Robin reached out to me and my life has done way more than turn around. I have friends that I never thought I deserved and a boyfriend that...everything I have, now, is because you took the time to reach out to me.”
“I can't take credit for that, Griff-”
“Yes, you can!” he said, grabbing me by my shoulders and staring into my eyes. “Don't you understand? I didn't have the strength to get away on my own! I was still going back to him after you both pulled me out of a ditch! I was at home recovering when he showed up and...and...he didn't care about my face, he just wanted to fuck me. And he did.”
“Griff...listen, that's what your friends are for. What kind of people would we be if we'd stood by and let that happen to you?”
“That's what I'm saying, Lu! You don't think others didn't guess or know? Look at the guys on his team! I'm telling you – you and Robin and this whole group – you're not like other people. You're...I don't know. I wish I had a word. You gave me the strength to help myself. You gave me friends. I have a whole new life just because you cared. I just want you to know how grateful I am and that, no matter what happens, I'm your friend and I'll do whatever it takes to keep you in my life.”
“Griff I'm...I'm stunned. I don't know what to say.”
“You don't have to say anything, Lu. I just wanted you to know, in case the worst happens. I know Devyn feels the way I do, he is very grateful to you and Robin.”
“Um. I'm a little overwhelmed,” I admitted.
“Lu, I know out of all of us I've been your friend for the shortest amount of time. But if I feel like this after a few months, can you imagine how the others feel? Derek might never say it – and if I didn't feel like you need to know this right now, maybe I wouldn't either. But both of us think of you as our family. Even though you're just a year older than Derek and your my age, we both feel very close to you. If your mother thinks,” Griffin's voice hitched, “If she thinks she can take you away from us, she has another thing coming. You are stuck with us. All of us.”
In the morning we made pancakes together. Actually, we tried. What we succeeded at was an enormous mess, and a few edible pancakes. Alec and Sasha arrived in the middle of it all and, you'd think, they'd have helped us out since they were older and supposedly more mature. Not so much. Alec sat back and narrated the event as if it were sports or something and spent far too much time commenting on how a butt looked or a bicep. In the end he deserved the pancake mix over his head, he really did.
Everyone was ready to leave by about noon, but just seemed reluctant to do so. I was actually on the verge of kicking them out so I could hear myself think when our front door opened and in walked Kale, Chase and little Linc with Robin. Robin?
Linc came straight to me and held his arms up. I lifted him and he said , very seriously, “Are you feeling better now?”
“I'm feeling pretty good,” I told him. Then Kale and Chase were there, repeating the assurances I'd been getting for the last twenty-four hours or so and there was a lot of chatting as my situation was rehashed and there were more statements about defending me. Robin and I didn't have time to talk for at least an hour, and then everyone started to clear out. It was like a line at a wedding reception or, I guess, a funeral where everyone hugs you on the way out the door. Except Robin, of course. As he closed the front door and turned to me, I put my hands in my pockets and looked at him apologetically.
“Are you mad?”
“At you? No. I'm mad you think anything could be more important than you. Or that I belong anywhere besides with you, when you're hurting and scared.”
“They took good care of me while you were gone....” I offered. Then, sighing, I said, “I didn't want you to worry. I thought you could at least enjoy your trip and deal with this after you were home.”
He approached me and and I fell into him, nuzzling his neck. “I knew they would. Honestly, the trip was too weird to be enjoyable.”
“I kept seeing things and wanting to tell you or see your reaction, and you weren't there,” he said softly, stroking my hair.
“I have to tell you some things,” I said with a deep breath. “But first...just this. Okay?”
“Yeah. As long as you want.”
So we stood in my living room and he held me. I breathed in his scent and reveled in the feel of his warm skin. Even though my friends had managed to distract me from my problem, nothing painful ever seemed more far away than when Robin was there. Reluctantly I pulled away and put my glasses back on.
I took him by the hand and sat him down on the couch and pulled his back to me, and I stroked his hair as I started to spill painful memories.
“You've always been so good to me, and one of those ways was not prying into the reasons I was in foster care to begin with. You know some things – that my dad died and my mom couldn't keep me, but there is a lot more. I've been afraid for a long time – you know that. You know how scared I am to lose everything, everyone.”
“You also know I suck at letting that go,” I said, cutting him off. “It's been tough on you, too, my insecurities and even then you didn't push me. It might not be as bad as what happened to Griff, Devyn or Asher but...”
“It's not a competition, babe.”
“I know. I'm stalling,” I said and squeezed him to me. “I'm stalling because I'm scared. Sash told me I can't make decisions from a place of fear, but it's hard. I've been making decisions that way for a long time. I kind of left out details so...I want to make sure I tell you everything.”
“Whatever it is, babe, we'll deal with it together.” Robin took one of my restless hands in his and kissed the back. “Just tell me so I know what you're afraid of. Tell me.”
I took a deep breath and started.
“My parents divorced when I was young; I didn't even really remember my mom much. For the longest time it was just me and my dad and my sister, Claire.”
“You never say much about her.”
“Yeah, I'll tell you more about her later. So, anyway, we lived with my dad for a long time and then he died one night. I told you about that – drinking too much and driving.”
“Yeah, I remember.”
“Well, when he died it took the county about a month to locate my mom and get us to her. At first she seemed kind of okay. She was happy to see us and acted a little like...I don't know, some stereotype stay-at-home mom. She'd wear an apron and make cookies or something. But that didn't last long. Pretty fast we heard her talking to people, but she wasn't with anyone. Someone would say something on the TV and she'd be convinced they were talking about her. We had to unplug the TV and even then she didn't trust it.”
“Didn't the county people see any of this?”
“Not really. They didn't seem to know that she was...sick. In fact they were ready to close our case when they got a call from the school that we hadn't been to class in over ten days.”
“Then what happened?”
“Well, we got regular visits. It kind of came out that my mom was...a...schizophrenic. I, uh, guess she'd been on her meds when we got there but decided she was doing fine and stopped taking them.”
“Isn't that...dangerous? I don't think you ever mentioned that she was sick.”
“Yeah. Um. She still had custody of Claire and me, and that didn't change until one day when we came home from school and...she'd kind of destroyed the house.”
Robin half turned in my arms to look up at me. “What do you mean 'kind of'?”
“She'd smashed lamps and the TV. A radio, I think, and all kinds of other stuff. She, uh, accused Claire and me of stealing from her. Then she said we weren't her kids and we just wanted to watch her for...them.”
“I don't know,” I said softly. “She pulled out a kitchen knife and said she had to take our eyes out so they couldn't see her anymore. She chased us both right out of the house.”
Robin sat up and stared in my eyes. “Every time you mention the knife, it shocks the hell out of me. I don't think you ever said anything about the eyes before, though. And now she wants you back?”
“Yeah,” I replied, and knotted my hands. “It gets worse.”
“How could that...tell me.”
“Robin...schizophrenia is genetic. Hereditary. There's about a ten percent chance I will develop it. If my dad had any of in in his family tree, I could have as much as a sixty percent chance.”
He stared at me and said, finally, “So?”
“Robin,” I said softly. “I could be really dangerous. To you. To-”
“Shut up. Just, no.” Robin stood up and glared at me. “We deal with this one thing at a time. First we kick your mother back to wherever she's been. If you get sick, we'll deal with it.”
“But...Robbie, you have to take this seriously...I could really be dangerous!”
“You look terrifying,” he deadpanned and dropped down onto the couch and kissed me hard before I could protest. Breaking the kiss he leaned his forehead against mine and stared into my eyes. “You're mine, Lucien, in sickness and in health. I don't need ceremonies or rings or legal documents to tell me what's in my heart. If you get sick, we'll deal. Okay?”
I stared back at him, my eyes watering and then pulled him to me. “Okay. Okay.”
It took a few minutes to collect ourselves and I sniffled a little and then asked him how he got home so fast.
“Alec was on the phone with Kale yesterday. They decided that Kale could come out to Buffalo and get me if I wanted to – and I did.”
“That video you sent me? That goodnight under your covers? That was really sweet.”
His lips twisted in a smile. “The guys were teasing me all day that my cheering section wasn't going to be there. They love teasing me about you. Truth is I love it too.”
“You do? Why?”
“Because they tease me the same way they tease the other guys about their girlfriends. My team really doesn't care. They just want to be able to play and to know that whoever is on their team can play. That's it.”
“Derek and Griffin want to adopt me,” I said, running my fingers through his hair.
“Yeah? They can't have you. I told you, you're mine,” he said and kissed me, and then followed it up with a flurry of quick kisses. I giggled.
“Not marry me, silly. I guess they think I'm pretty special.”
“Well, they're right.”
“Alec got fired.”
“He did? I think he told Kale he was going to quit if they didn't give him the time off.”
“Nope, he got fired.”
“What did your crazy brother do?”
“He told a customer to go crap on the lawn or something.”
“He...of course he did. He wanted to get fired, I bet.”
“Well, I think he's more about going out in a blaze of glory than anything else.”
“You know, if either of you two had a mental condition, everyone would guess it's him,” Robin giggled.
“Everyone seems to like his brand of crazy,” I replied, smiling at him.
“So what about your sister?”
“Claire,” I said, dropping my smile. “We, uh, used to be kind of tight, I guess. I suppose we fought as much as any other siblings. When we got to my moms...well, it had been a big change just going from my dad to my mom, but the fact that he was dead and we'd been with strangers for a month...”
“That sounds hard.”
“Yeah. It was.” I sighed with the memory. “We'd talk to each other through the vent that connected our room, after bed time. We were both really weirded out by our mom and...well, after the last episode, we got sent back into foster care.”
“Did you go back to the people that had you before?”
“No. That might have been okay, at least we'd have kind of known them. They sent us to these people that were very into a...particular brand of religion. My sister bought into it and outed me to them – they were seriously anti-gay.”
“Oh man...” He took my hand and said, “So seeing her again might not be high on your wish list, huh?”
“I don't know,” I said softly. “When I talked to Alec about it he told me not all religious people are like that – and he used your family as an example.”
“Did he? I never thought of Alec as particularly...spiritual.”
“He's not,” I chuckled. “But when we were having this talk I was still just crushing hard on you, so I guess he figured he'd use that against me.”
“Oh, I see,” he grinned. His smile faded as he looked at me thoughtfully. “Does going to church with me bother you?”
“Well,” I said with a grimace, “it's not my favorite thing to do. But like just about anything, I'll go for you.”
“I see. Were you ever going to tell me you were...uncomfortable?”
“I won't say I'm uncomfortable. It's not my thing, but your church isn't like those people and neither is your family. I'm not...I don't know if I believe in all that, but I'm okay that other people do.”
“If you want to talk about it at some point...”
“One day, we'll have to, I guess. Or we should since it's important to you – so I want to understand it, just because of that. Just, not now, okay?”
“Well, no, of course not now,” Robin chuckled. “I just wanted you to know – well, I'm being silly, of course you know you can ask me anything. What am I thinking?”
“You're just trying to be sensitive while I tell you how my sister kicked me to the curb for Jesus.”
“Hmm. Well, what happened next?”
“They kind of freaked me out, splashing me with holy water and praying all night – I mean literally, I didn't sleep and they didn't either. They burned candles and just...it was really freaky.”
“It sounds it.”
“Then they dropped me at the social services office the next day. I got dropped at the group home by the end of the day and...about a week later I was sitting outside and... there were these guys playing lacrosse on the school fields.”
“Uh huh. There was this one guy – he was so hot.”
“Oh really? What did this guy look like?”
“Devastatingly sexy,” I said, letting my mouth curl into a smile as I looked at Robin. “Pale skin, flushed from the exercise and all shiny with sweat.”
“That sounds kind of gross,” Robin said with a laugh.
“He was sexy,” I said, pushing him. “He had black hair and amazing, sea blue eyes. I kind of fell in love that day.”
“That is so mushy,” he said with a laugh and kissed me. “Is that when you thought I was a superhero? Going to save you?”
“Yeah,” I said. “You did, too.” Then I cut off his protests, kissing him until he stopped trying to talk and just kissed me back.
Eventually I took Robin home. Mrs. K hugged me and told me – actually kind of ordered me – to keep my chin up and that everything will be okay. I did feel better after that; Mrs. K was a lady you just don't screw with and if she said it, I think you can believe it.
Once I was back home, I called Kale.
“Lu? Did you hear something? No, wait, it's a Sunday, of course not. What's up?”
“That was a mouthful, Kale,” I laughed.
“Yeah.” I could practically see him frowning. Of course, he was only talking this way out of worry – worry for me, for Robin and Alec. “So what's up? We're getting close to bath time and Linc decided to hide.”
“I won't keep you. I just wanted to thank you for coming home to see me and for bringing Robin to me. I really needed him.”
“It was a pain in the ass,” he said frankly. “But you're family, Lu. We take care of our own. If you thought for a minute we wouldn't do everything possible...”
“It's not that. Not really,” I said. I sat on my bed and looked down at my shoes. “It's just that...I didn't tell Robin because there was nothing he could do. I figured we'd deal with it when he got back. Alec had finals going – I'm sure you guys do, too. I just didn't want to burden everyone.”
“Lu! Jesus, fuck and...Chase, talk to Lu before I kill him over the phone.”
The phone switched around and Chase greeted me.
“Uh. What happened?”
“Ugh, one second. Linc! Stop it! It's bath time. You get out of that suitcase this instant!” There was some noises and Linc crying out that he was being kidnapped and then a door closed somewhere and Chase was back.
“Sorry, Linc isn't a fan of bath time.”
“Because it's what we want him to do!” Chase laughed. “He's being contrary about everything right now. Anyway, sounds like you pissed my husband off. What did you say?” He had a teasing lilt to his tone, but it was still kind of a serious question.
“Nothing!” I said. “I just called to thank him for you guys coming to see me and bringing Robin to me. I told him I hadn't called everyone because you're all so busy right now and I didn't want to be a burden to anyone.”
“Oh. Lucien, you're an idiot!” Chase laughed out loud and I pulled the phone from my ear briefly to frown at it.
“I keep getting told some version of how dumb I am, lately,” I grumbled.
“Sweetheart, let me put this in simple terms. Our family is everything to us. Kale is the original family man, for crying out loud! He'd walk through fire for any of us, let alone drive a few hours. Lucien,” Chase said solemnly, “this was a family crisis. Wild horses wouldn't have kept us away.”
“Thank you,” I said softly. “Will you apologize to him for me?”
“No need. He knows you're trying to be considerate, Lu. It just doesn't matter. As far as he's concerned, you're a Kirkwood.”
“Well,” I said, running a hand through my hair, “I think Alec would be heartbroken if I were to change my last name.”
“Oh my gosh,” Chase said quickly. “Robin and Lucien Kutsenko? He's going to-”
“What did you say?” Kale's voice echoed in the background.
“Um, I'm going to go. Love you guys!” I said.
“Don't you dare!” Chase said, laughing, but I disconnected. That was definitely a fight for another day.
Monday I sat down with my usual group of friends for lunch. Although I'd been buoyed by my weekend with my friends and even more by Robin coming home- not to mention Kale and Chase going so far out of their way with a four-year-old; I have to say, I felt pretty damned important. Of course, Robin had to go home and so did Alec and Sasha, and Kale, Chase and Linc. So, by the time I went to bed, I was back to worrying about my future and thinking about trying to meet my mom and change her mind. That was swept aside when Sophie sat down next to me.
“Hello, Cowboy!” she said cheerfully.
“Isn't it nice out? I love spring with all the birds out and the trees with all the new leaves!”
“Yeah, it's nice.”
“Well, can't you enjoy some of it? You look like you need to get laid!”
I eyed her. “You're way too chipper. In fact, you're acting like you got some.”
She grinned and dug into her lunch.
“Hey! Whoa, no way!” I said and leaned in close. “What happened? Come on!”
“Now, come on, Cowboy! A girl isn't supposed to brag about that stuff!” She laughed and stuffed her mouth again.
“You're no regular girl, you gotta tell me!” I said with laugh. “The way you're smiling, it must have been really damn good!”
“Well, if you're going to drag it outta me,” she said and leaned in. “It was fantastic. He said and did the right things, and it all went really well, right up until I broke his dick.”
“What's going on?” Robin asked as he took his seat next to me.
“Sophie broke some guys dick!” I said to him and then turned back to her. “Come on, what else?”
“I have to tell you later, little ears are getting close.”
“Hey, Sophie,” Phil said, dropping his tray onto the table and taking me by surprise.
“Hi, Phil,” Sophie said. “You know Robin and Lucien, don't you?”
“Uh. Um. Yeah. Hi.” Phil stuttered uncomfortably.
“Robin, Lu? You know Phil Ashmore, right? Gavin's little brother?” Sophie asked.
“Uh, sort of,” I replied.
“What's going on?” Austin asked as he set his tray down and looked warily at Phil. Derek seemed oblivious to Austin's discomfort and greeted Phil cheerfully.
“Hi, I'm Derek Pellegrini,” he said. Glancing up at Austin, who was still standing, an awkward silence fell across the table.
“I told you this was a bad idea,” Phil said and started to stand.
“Sit.” Sophie ordered. Glancing around the table she took us all in and, seeming to be satisfied that we were all paying attention, she spoke. “I know Phil has a checkered past. I'd appreciate it if you hear me out, since I invited him to sit with us.”
Austin glanced at Phil, sighed and sat next to Derek, whose mouth was fixed in a round 'O'. Maybe he'd just realized who Phil was.
“Thank you,” she said. “You all remember Gavin, of course. I'm sure everyone is well aware that he and I broke up and I had a short stint with Elliot. Well. Gavin and I have gotten back together – put that eyebrow back down, Cowboy!”
My lips quirked but I dropped the eyebrow back into place.
“You all know, from my bitching, how many issues Gavin and I had. Now, I'm not saying he's a new man, not all at once. But I can say that he's trying awful hard and some things have happened in his life that go a long way to explaining things.”
“Like what? And what does any of that have to do with...Phil?” Austin asked. He glanced furtively at Phil as he said so. Phil, for his part, looked a little miserable.
“Well, like his father is a total asshole, for starters,” she said. “His whole idea of being a man is getting laid at all costs. He's a misogynistic, pimple-faced, fart-sniffing, homophobic, dickless, spineless ass-monkey who tried to raise his sons the same way. He used to talk right over his mom, right up until a few months ago. Then he got tossed out on his lard ass and Mrs. Ashmore is teaching her boys about the real world.”
“What happened a few months ago to change all that?” Robin asked.
“Um. My mom got offered a promotion at work and my dad told her she couldn't accept it.” Phil glanced around the table shyly; having no resemblance to the kid who'd sent Austin all those dirty text messages last year.
“Why'd he say that?” Derek asked.
“Because then she'd make more than he did. He said he was the man, so he had to make more. My mom was really pissed – she's been at her job for, like, fifteen years and she deserved it,” Phil replied.
“What did she do?” I asked.
“She told him she was taking the promotion and he could shove his macho bullshit right up his ass.”
“Good for her,” Austin said. “So, what? Now we're supposed to pretend nothing happened?”
“I'm sorry about that,” Phil said, blushing – but also smiling. “Dad told me I was a pervert for being gay and Gavin told me the rules are probably the same as they are for him – just go for it. So, I did!”
“That wasn't the best way to go about it,” I said, dryly.
“I didn't know!” he insisted. “I mean, I didn't know what I was saying and stuff wasn't all that cool.” He looked over at Austin and earnestly said, “I saw your picture and you were so hot! I just...I just did what I thought I was supposed to do.”
“Listen, Phil, I just have to ask this because it's been on my mind ever since the text messaging debacle,” Robin said, trying to suppress a laughing fit. “Where did you find those pick-up lines?”
“Online,” he said promptly. “People write stories and I found all these things gay guys say to each other – or at least I thought I did.”
“This conversation is so surreal,” Derek said. “This is the same Phil that sent all those nasty messages to my boyfriend, right? Just making sure I know what we're dealing with?”
“You're dating him?” Phil said, his mouth dropping open and grinning all in one. “I bet he's great in bed, right? Was I right?”
“Hey!” Derek growled.
“Philip!” Sophie snapped and Phil wilted quickly. “Austin is still a person and if you won't treat him like one, you can walk your skinny ass back over and eat your lunch standing against the wall again.”
“I'm...I'm sorry, Austin,” Phil said, very contritely. Austin sighed and nodded slowly at him.
“Phil? Why would you say things like that to Austin? I mean, what prompted you to even try?” Derek asked.
“Yeah. It's kind of embarrassing.” Phil took a breath and said, “I saw Austin on this website-”
“Website? What kind of website?” Derek asked, looking at Austin.
“Not that kind of website!” Austin said with a laugh and shoving Derek. “It's that hot guys at work thing.”
“Oh, okay. Just checking,” Derek grinned.
“Anyway, it was at Christmas time and I ran into Austin at the mall, in the bathroom. So I asked him for a picture.”
“That sounds innocent enough,” Derek said.
“Wait for it,” I said.
“Babe,” Austin said and leaned in to whisper in Derek's ear. Derek, for his part, turned scarlet.
“I think I was missing parts of the story. What about the texts?” Derek asked, trying not to laugh.
“It's not funny,” Austin mumbled.
“Well, Austin is just so...” Phil's ears turned red and he said, “Well, I was sending him messages, trying to get him to like me. I thought I was being...sexy.”
“You thought...” Derek started to giggle and Austin shoved him again.
“Well, Phil, I'll say this much for you – you have great taste,” Derek said, trying to sound contrite, but not quite pulling it off.
“Don't encourage him,” Austin grumbled.
“I'm a little confused, Sophie. What are you trying to do, here?” I asked.
“Well, it seems Phil's behavior has got him in a pickle. He has a reputation and is finding himself with a lot of time on his hands. I figure, he needs people to show him what's right and who better than you?”
“Who, me?” I said, my voice rising in panic.
“Yeah!” Phil said, excitedly. “Can we start with a kissing lesson?”
“No,” Robin said, pointing a finger at Phil. “Lesson one is you don't get to kiss boys that are dating anyone – and Lucien is mine.”
“Rawr,” Derek said with a laugh.
“I'm serious,” Robin said, flicking his gaze from Derek to Phil. “Rule number one is to respect who you're with. If they're not with you, respect the relationship they are in. The biggest mistake you made with Austin all the way along was not respecting him – as a person, his privacy- and with your comments about his looks just now- his relationship.”
With each sentence Phil seemed to huddle as if Robins' words were physical blows. I'd have felt bad, but Robin was right and if we were going to do this, then he'd need to learn that lesson right away. With a sigh, I realized that just thinking that meant we were actually doing this.
“I'm sorry, Austin,” Phil said, now looking and sounding very contrite.
“Uh. It's okay. I mean...apology accepted.”
“I knew I could count on you guys, you really are the best.” Sophie went back to her food, but I had a sudden thought.
“Hey, Sophie. Is Gavin out sick today?” I asked innocently. My suspicions were confirmed when she started coughing on her food.
“Mom took him to the emergency room yesterday, something about a groin pull. Isn't that a natural thing? What am I missing?” Phil asked.
By now I had tears running down my face and was leaning on a laughing Robin. Sophie was still coughing up bits of her lunch and the rest of the table was wondering just what was going on.
I saw Sophie later in class and was vastly disappointed to find that we had actual classwork and I got no time to question her about this dick breaking thing. Right after school, however, I caught her at her locker. I decided to be circumspect about this whole situation, though, and hit her up first with the whole 'Project: Phil' thing she'd jammed us up with.
“So, now we can reform perverts?” I asked.
Her body jumped and then she pulled her head out of her locker and gave me a sunny smile. “I figured you'd show him more acceptable ways. After all, you do have better ways, right?”
“That sounded like an awfully nice way of calling me a pervert. Did you just call me a pervert?”
“Maybe,” she said with a giggle.
“Well, at least I didn't break my boyfriend's-” I never finished as her hand flew up and covered my mouth, cutting me off. She was also shaking with laughter and telling me to 'shush'.
“Look, you want the story? My price is a ride home and a little exchange of info. With Gavin out, I'm back to the bus.”
I looked at her skeptically. “Is this 'ride' you're talking about...”
She put a hand on her hip. “Cowboy, there was a time I'd have taken you up on that so fast we wouldn't make it to the parking lot. But I'm in a relationship and you're practically married, so let's not go there, huh?”
I grinned and she pointed at me, her lips pursed but curved in amusement. “I mean it, you.”
We walked out to the bus and, once inside, I asked immediately about the broken penis – it was just too gruesome not to hear about.
“Okay, so, when you and Robin are...intimate,” she said, raising an eyebrow. “Have you ever, you know, bounced on him like he's your personal pogo stick?”
“Have I...wait, how did we get to my sex life?”
“I did say an exchange of information,” she said demurely.
“But. No, wait a minute!” I said. “That's not fair! You volunteered your info, why do I have to say anything to get the whole story?”
“Trust me, it'll make more sense if you do. Now, have you ever sat on Robin's dick?”
I stared at her for a moment, weighing things back and forth in my mind. On the one hand, I was dying to know if she was jerking my chain about this whole broken dick story. Who ever heard of such a thing? I wasn't embarrassed to have bottomed for Robin – even though it seems like some people look down on that. Not that they'll ever get the chance, but Robin would change their mind in a big hurry.
“Yes, okay, I have. How is that relevant?”
“Okay, now, has he done that with you?”
“What? Sat on my dick? Yeah, again, so?”
“Did you like it?”
“Fucking duh! Now give!”
“Okay, okay,” she said, snickering. “Are you going to drive?”
“Not even turning the key until you start talking.”
“All right, fine,” she said with a laugh. “So, yesterday Gavin and I had sex, obviously. Now, the first attempt he filled that condom in record time, you know what I mean?”
Recalling my first time with Robin, I decided I'd not pick on Gavin.
“So, you guys are so famous for recovering quick; I just slapped another condom on him and got back to business. Hey, so how thick would you say your dick is?”
“Too close to home? How about Robin, then?”
“It does the job,” I said. She lifted an eyebrow at me again. Wait, did I just make him sound small? “I mean, very well, of course.”
She tilted her head and I started the bus, backed us up and headed for her home.
“Stop staring,” I said.
I sighed. “It's a perfect fit, okay? Believe me, I know it when he's in me.”
“Now was that so hard?”
“Sophie, you don't understand,” I said quietly. “Anyone can see Robin's outside and think they love him – hell, I did.”
“Back up, I never got this whole story, Cowboy.”
“The short version is I first saw him practicing lacrosse towards the end of summer. He was so hot and I started crushing on him...but when I actually met him, I was just helpless. I fell in love so fast it just took my breath away.”
We rode quietly for a minute and then I continued. “Robin and I don't fuck. We never have. I can honestly tell you that I believe we've made love every time. Making sure Robin is feeling as good as I can make him feel is my first concern. It's one way I show him how much I love him and appreciate him. So when you ask about his...”
I shot her some side eye. “Yeah. It's reducing him to something way less than he is.”
“Oh, Cowboy, I understand what you're saying. I'm sorry if I upset you, but I also have to point out – you're the only one that gets to see that dimension of Robin. Don't get me wrong, he's cute and sweet and funny enough, but you're much more my physical type. Some of this is just subjective, you know? Personal taste?”
I shifted in my seat, a little uneasy with her attraction to me.
“To me, if you two were to make a sex tape? I'd be first in line, honey,” she laughed uproariously at my look of dismay. “When I see you two boys I just think you look like sex on a stick. And it wouldn't matter what position either of you were in, either! Why I've imagined-”
“What does any of this have to do with you breaking Gavin's dick?” I blurted out, to cut her off.
“Oh, that! Well, this is why I asked. Gavin is kind of slim in that department. Plenty of length, just not...robust, you might say.”
“I really, really didn't need to know that.”
“Well, remember my mentioning the pogo stick?”
“Hard to forget.”
“Well, there I was – pogoing away and really getting into it when he slipped out, a little, and then there was this loud snap and poor Gavin is screaming out in pain. Well his mom came running in, and I hadn't even had a chance to put my pants on! But poor Gavin was hollering and his lovely dick was already starting to bruise...” she said, glancing at me. I gave her a weak smile and nodded for her to continue, so she did. “I went to the emergency room with his mom and the doctor said it's a 'penile fracture'. A little rare, but that's one of the ways it can happen.”
“So.” I turned and looked at her, back at the road and then back to her and said, “You seriously broke his dick?”
“So...who...what did his mom say?”
“We had a talk on the way back. She told me she didn't really approve of sex at our age, but she wasn't stupid enough to think it won't happen. So she asked if we were safe and how we felt about each other – all in all I have to say it was a great conversation.”
“Not that great after your first time?”
“My first time was great. I ached a little, walked funny for a day or two, but it was great.”
“I knew it. He has a club between his legs, doesn't he?”
“A club?” I said, and laughed. “Listen, all I'll say is he's a perfect fit for me.”
“I knew it, he's huge.”
“What is your obsession with my boyfriend's dick?” I demanded.
“I'm just picturing you bouncing on it and, I figure, boys are rougher than girls so you boys must have thicker dicks to handle all that pounding. Hey,” she turned in her seat to face me. “That even sounds scientific, doesn't it?”
I glanced at her and back to the road. “You spend an awful lot of time thinking about Robin and I having sex.”
“I love watching gay porn,” she admitted.
“Yeah. I read somewhere that's true of a lot of women. Cowboy,” she said, putting a hand on my forearm. “I wasn't trying to say you guys don't make love – anyone can look at either of you and see how devoted you are. I'm just saying...it's got to be hot. Very, very hot.”
I looked at her again and she raised an eyebrow, daring me to deny it. Feeling suddenly bold, and wanting to defend my boyfriend's prowess, I said, “He's very, very good.”
“I knew it!” she squealed.“So after your first time, did you get caught, too?”
“No. I'm not sure if my folks actually know I'm having sex. I mean, they aren't stupid and they had the talk with me. But they never know when to believe Alec and, if you listen to him, Robin and I do nothing else but try to screw.”
“Now that's a nice picture,” she snickered.
“Come on, cut it out!”
“What? I'm just picturing two hot guys going at it!”
“There is way more to us than sex,” I grumbled.
“Yeah, but again, it's sounds pretty hot!”
“At least I haven't broken-”
“Okay, no more of that,” she said with a laugh.
We had study group that night, but we didn't have a great deal to do. Some of my classes had grown easier with the coming of spring. It was almost like the weather was affecting the lesson plan. It didn't take long before the discussion turned to Derek's mother, which led to my own.
“So my mom called me today and she's telling me how much she misses me and she says 'don't you have a birthday coming up?'” Derek spread his hands out as he looked around the table at us. “I said, 'you gave birth to me, shouldn't you remember when I was born?'”
“You didn't!” Griffin laughed. Devyn was making his muffled wheeze, a sound that was so endearing, and moving his fingers quickly.
“No, Devyn, I don't have a birthday coming up. Chloe does.”
“I could never confuse you for Chloe,” Austin said to him.
“You better not,” Derek grumbled.
“What about your mom, Lu?” Griff asked.
“Uh. Well,” I said, looking around a little distractedly. “I guess she wants to meet. The lawyer said there is a chance she'd drop the suit if I asked her to – but a small one. He said I shouldn't get my hopes up.”
“Well, we have to try that first, right?” Robin said. “Let's do it.”
“Well, yeah. I was thinking I should try that first. Maybe I can put a stop to this whole mess.”
“Just tell me when. I want to look her in the eye and tell her she can't have you,” Austin said.
“I appreciate the support, Austin, but I'm pretty sure you guys can't come.”
“Excuse me?” Robin said.
I looked at him and ducked my head. “It's a legal meeting and...I don't want you to see her. I don't want any of you to see this ugly part of my past.”
Robin stood up and glared down at me. “Don't you dare. There is nothing that woman can do that changes anything between us.” He started slamming his books into his bag and shaking the table.
“No. No!” He leveled a finger at me. “I'm going. If you try to leave me behind I'll never forgive you. Do you hear me? Do you?”
“Yeah. I hear you, Robbie,” I said softly. “It's not going to be pretty, though.”
“I don't care!” he yelled. He stood rigidly, his face working and then he grabbed his bag and left. I was kind of stunned and my mouth may still have been open when my father came downstairs to ask what the yelling was about.
“Robin's mad at me.”
'Actually,' Devyn signed, 'he wants you to stop acting like you're alone in this. You keep fighting us like you don't deserve our help, love or comfort. You need to get over that shit.'
Devyn stood and began to pack up his stuff.
He glanced at me and walked purposefully, pulling me down into a hug. Pulling back he held his hand in front of my face, moving his fingers.
'We love you. Stop this shit where you seem to think you're not worth it.' He turned from me and then hesitated before turning back. 'And go after your boyfriend.'
Not long after everyone left, I did just that. It took some convincing as far as my parents went, they wondered if I shouldn't let it lie for the moment. I convinced them it would keep me awake and they relented, but grudgingly. I motored over before they reconsidered and parked next to Robin's car. I sighed heavily, feeling tired – tired of the stress, of the fear, of being called various shades of stupid. Not only that, I was tired of constantly aggravating Robin, having to apologize and feel crappy and then, doing it all over again.
Despite that, I knew I wouldn't sleep if Robin was angry with me, so I forced myself to get out and go to the front door. I knocked and then opened the door and placed my shoes with the other ones in the entryway.
“Hey,” Jamie said from the couch in the living room. Sean greeted me as well, from his perch on the love seat.
“Hey,” I replied. “Robin in his room?”
“Yeah. Um. What's wrong?”
“It's a long story, Jamie. It all ends the same way, though – I'm an idiot.”
He frowned. I explained, briefly, the situation and his jaw was hanging open by the end.
“Can't my dad do something?” he asked, sitting up straighter. After I explained the whole concept of recusing himself, Jamie just stared at me.
“All I can think of is someone showing up and saying they were taking Sean. That's the closest I can get and I feel so freaking empty. No wonder Robin's pissy.” Jamie glanced at Sean, who looked thoughtful. I wonder if he was wondering how he'd feel to be taken from Jamie.
“No, that's me, again,” I sighed.
“Um. Lu, I hope you know – what I just said about Sean...I didn't mean I wouldn't miss you. I just realized I kind of sounded like a dick.”
I smiled at him. “It's okay, Jamie. I'd miss you, too.”
I turned and headed towards the stairs, but was caught again, this time by Mrs K. She had on a bathrobe that looked like silk and her hair was tightly wrapped, likely ready for bed. I recalled my sister used to do that; claimed there was some benefit when you had long hair.
“Hello, sweetheart,” she said and embraced me. “How are you holding up?”
“I'm still here.”
“Speaking of being here, did you two fight?” She released me, but kept her hands on my shoulders and looked down at my face.
“Not really. I just have a knack for making Robin angry with me.”
“We always hurt the ones we love, Lucien,” she said softly. “Usually, we don't mean to. It's late, so don't be up there too long, okay?”
I climbed the stairs and, once outside his door, hesitated again. What if he was angry enough not to want to see me? Was this a bad idea? What if I made it worse? I stood there, vacillating, when Jamie thumped up the stairs. He pulled up short and tilted his head in question.
I held out my hands and dropped them uselessly. He grinned, leaned past me and knocked on Robin's door, whispered 'dork' and kept going to the bathroom door.
Thoughts of Jamie vanished as Robin, dressed for bed, opened his door and saw me waiting.
His lips thinned and he said, “Go away.” Then he closed the door. I barely had time to move my feet before the door opened again and he grabbed me by the front of my shirt, saying, “Get in here.”
He leaned against the door and pulled me to him, kissing me hard. I felt relieved – I knew I'd go home with us being okay; now I just had to do the work to fix it.
“I'm sorry,” I said.
“I'm just...I'm embarrassed, Robin. I don't want to introduce you to the woman who chased me with a knife, threatening to cut my eyes out and the sister that sold me out for religion.”
“Please don't call me dumb or an idiot or make some other reference to how little brain power I seem to have,” I said as I pulled back from him and crossed my arms over my chest. “Everyone keeps telling me I'm stupid, lately. I'm not stupid.”
“No, you're not.” Robin sat down on his bed and patted the space next to him. I sat down, still guarded against another admonishment. “Lucien, you're trying to do this alone, and not only do you not have to, you shouldn't. I didn't insist on going because I want to meet them,” he reached out and caressed my cheek. “I'm going to support you – even if it means sitting in the waiting room. I just want to be there for you.”
I blinked at him, water filling my eyes. “Fuck. I really am stupid.”
“No, not really,” he said with a chuckle. “You and I are just looking at this from different perspectives, babe. You think you're protecting me or your friends and being considerate – and you're very considerate. But...damn it, babe, this is you and me. Don't you want me to stand by you?”
“Of course I do,” I whispered, wiping my eyes. “I guess I just suck at showing it.”
“Only sometimes. Trust me, the rest of the time? I know you want me.” He paused. “Around.”
I smiled at him. “Yeah. I do.”
“Lie down with me,” he said and we stretched out on his bed, and I rested my head on his chest.
“I can't stay long. I had to beg my folks to come over and your mom knows I'm here. She said not to be up here long.”
“Yeah, but you're stressed. Maybe you'll just fall asleep, right? That's not your fault.”
“No one would buy that,” I said with a chuckle. I tilted my head to look up at him, “Though I do love waking up next to you.”
He stroked my hair and I actually did yawn. There was a tap on the door and, as it opened, I closed my eyes. I heard Robin's head move on the pillow and, moments later, the door closed. My eyes popped open and I looked up at Robin.
“We're good, mom will take care of it.”
“That fooled your mom?” I asked, skeptically.
“Not a bit,” Robin said with a chuckle. “I just gave her big eyes and mouthed 'please' at her.”
“So she'll call my folks?”
“Yeah. They'll probably talk about the stress and making a little accommodation or something, just for right now. I don't care, really. Get more comfortable for bed and I'll turn the light out.”
I put my jeans and shirt over the back of his chair and left my socks on the floor. He put his tee in the hamper and hit the light before climbing in with me. I put my head back on his chest and he put his hand on my back, drawing me close. Of course, I started to get hard.
“I can feel that you've forgiven me,” Robin giggled in the dark. I reached down and confirmed that he, too, was hard.
“Feels like you have forgiven me, too.”
We tried to be quiet as we shifted around into a sixty-nine position. We'd stop moving when we could hear steps outside his door – well, all but tongues, really – just to be sure no one was going to tap on it and check on us or try to catch us in the act. Our concern was unfounded as the rest of the family went to bed and we resumed pleasuring each other to our mutual satisfaction.
As I resumed my place, cuddled into Robins' side, I ran my fingers over his exposed skin and recalled my conversation with Sophie earlier in the day.
“Sophie was questioning me about your dick today,” I said softly.
“She what?” Robin whispered, his voice carrying shocked amusement.
“She was telling me about the whole broken dick thing, remember from lunch?”
“Hard to forget. Was it Gavin?”
“Yeah. She was asking because she thinks we must have thick dicks 'cause we're guys and guys are rougher than girls.”
“I...don't think I really get that.”
I explained her gay guy penis theory and we both giggled into our hands, and then some more as I explained how she managed to hospitalize her boyfriend. Robin rolled onto his side and pulled me up so we were facing each other.
“So. What did you tell her about my dick?”
“Why not? You didn't brag?” he teased.
“She guessed you had a club,” I offered.
“A club? So, what, she's pictured me naked?”
“Both of us. Apparently we go at it in her fantasies.”
“Still, you could have told her I was huge or something,” he said, giggling.
“I told her you were a perfect fit.”
“You know, you are seriously good for my ego.”
“It was kind of uncomfortable, though. I didn't want to tell her anything, really,” I said, tracing the muscles on his chest. “I don't think anyone else deserves to know that side of you.”
“Haven't you talked about sex to Derek or Austin? Or Devyn and Griffin?”
“Except for the advice I gave Austin? No. Why, have you?”
“A little,” Robin confessed. “Austin and I talk, sometimes.”
“You know. Sex,” he laughed.
“Like what?” I ask.
“Positions or rating how good it was or-”
“Wait, you rated our sex? To Austin?”
“Sure. I mean, it's a trade. We're guys! We like to talk about sex!”
“Robin!” I said, scandalized. “Oh my God! How detailed did you get?”
“Babe, relax,” he giggled and tried to pull me close. “You always get perfect grades in bed.”
“That's not the point,” I grumbled.
“I like bragging about my boyfriend's...prowess,” he said, moving in and whispering into my ear.
“I'm only trying to make you feel good,” I said a little petulantly. “And I don't think everyone else needs to know about it.”
“It's not everyone, babe,” he whispered. “I just tell him what a thoughtful, considerate...passionate man you are in bed.”
“That isn't helping.”
He laughed into the pillow. “Did I tell you they had a fight?”
“Austin and Derek? No! Why?”
“I guess Derek told Austin he wouldn't top him.”
“Why the hell not? I thought they would have traded spots a long time ago!”
“Oh, Austin is totally willing – in fact, he was pissed that Derek was saying no. But, it turns out, Derek thinks he's protecting his boyfriend.”
“From what? Sexual satisfaction?” I snorted.
“Well, I guess Derek is a little...thicker than Austin. He's a little concerned about causing him pain.”
I rolled my eyes in the dark. “I guess this makes me such a hypocrite, listening to you tell me about their sex.”
“It's kind of natural, babe. If it makes you feel better, I don't get too graphic.”
“No. I just tell them-”
“No, don't.” I shoved him, “I know you, you're about to say something to mess with me!”
Robin giggled again. “I was just going to say, I told him you like my ankles.”
“I love your ankles.”
“Yeah. You like holding my ankles while you-”
“Shut up! You didn't say that!”
He giggled some more and I pushed him again. “I do like that, but you shouldn't be saying things like that, Robin Kirkwood.”
“That's such a weird thing to like, though,” he said, continuing to laugh.
“I'd explain it, but then you'd tell Austin, so I'll keep my thoughts about your ankles to myself.”
“Lucien,” he whined. “Come on! Hamster and I have an information swap this week and I need something good to tell him!”
“Why are you being so mean to me?” I asked and tickled him. He bucked a little, grabbing my hands and held them away from his ticklish parts.
“Because you won't tell me what this thing is you have for my ankles!” he said, trying not to laugh. I leaned in and pulled him tightly to me, then whispered in his ear.
“Because they are delicate and manly all at the same time – and there is something very sexy about the way your calves flow into those perfect ankles. Plus, I love every square inch of you”
He sighed. “I can't tell Hamster that. He'll pretend he's going to throw up on me.”
He started to giggle again and I pushed him. “I say that and you laugh?”
His hands crept up from the dark and touched my face, just his fingertips tracing the skin of my cheek. “I laugh because...sometimes I'm just blown away by the things you say. I could play it off like you just wanted to make me feel good, inflate my ego or something but...you follow it up with so much love. Sometimes I just don't know what to say.”
“Well, I guess there really is no proper response for someone complimenting your ankles,” I said, letting a teasing tone enter my voice.
He rolled away from me and then backed up, the two of us spooned together and pulled my hands into his.
He sighed. “I wish we could sleep this way every night.”
“Naked together? Usually we don't get much sleep,” I snickered.
He turned his head back toward me. “I mean after, babe. The cuddling, the way you feel warm and skin to skin with me...it's sexy and all kinds of wonderful rolled in one.”
I pulled him tightly to me in response. “I talked to Chase last night. He said Kale already thinks of me as a Kirkwood.”
“Oh? What did you say to that?”
“I told him I thought Alec would be really hurt if I changed my last name, considering how hard he has worked for me.”
“Hmm. Lucien and Robin Kutsenko.”
“You...mean you'd actually consider changing your name?”
“Maybe. I guess.” He laced his fingers with mine and he said, “I'd suggest we hyphenate to aggravate both of them, but I think you're right – Alec would be hurt whereas Kale, merely annoyed.”
“So...you going to arrange to talk to your mom?”
I lay quietly for a moment and then said, “Yeah, I think I have to try. Once I know when we can meet, I'll let you know.”
Robin pulled on my arm to bring me in closer to him. “You feel so good.”
I lifted up and kissed him. “Goodnight, Robin. I love you.”
“I love you, too, Lucien.”
I slept comfortably and awakened feeling calm and relaxed. Robin and I were a tangle of arms and legs and, though he still slept, his morning wood was pressing into my stomach. I nuzzled his neck, kissing lightly until he stirred. Having him muzzy and not really awake, I slowly disentangled myself and moved under the sheets to finish the job of waking him in the best way I could think of.
We showered and Robin lent me clothes. I felt so kinky wearing his underclothes. Robin left a few minutes early to get gas and, I guess since it was a novelty to have me there, Jamie and Sean rode with me. As I walked to my bus I noted a bit of paper under the windshield wiper. Unfolding it it said 'You give me a heart on' and then there was a stylized 'R'.
“You guys are so sappy,” Sean teased.
“I know. I love it,” I said, grinning at him.