**Special edition!!! So we have Andrew and Garrett back to tell us what happened next. But also, they are doing double duty, to also wish our dear Alder a lovely, wonderful, happy birthday! Happy birthday, dear, and I hope it’s filled with awesome. This one was your request, and I hope you enjoy it. I hope everyone enjoys it!**
It was unseasonably warm, and Garrett had spent most of the five hour drive dodging other cars and bitching about the fact it was going to be a green Christmas. For him, the snow on the ground and rooftops made Christmas feel more like Christmas. I couldn’t exactly blame him, but since I’d spent much of my life in the South, I’d never had snowy Christmases to begin with. That was a thing for the movies, and it wasn’t until I’d moved here that I’d experienced snow at all. But I’d made soothing noises, and even pointed out that the holiday spirit wasn’t dependent on snow. He’d grudgingly agreed, but I knew he hadn’t been happy about it.
When we finally turned onto his street, the sun was just beginning to set, so all the lights decorating the houses were beginning to shine. We drove for blocks, until he began to slow. And then I saw the split ranch that was familiar from some pictures. Only it was decorated to the hilt. Lights along the roof line and candles in the windows. A wreath on the door. Animatronic deer in the front yard, next to a huge Alder tree that had also been draped in lights. There was a blow up snowman, a sign that proclaimed Happy Holidays, and plastic candy canes lining the walkway up to the front porch. It was, in all honesty, just this side of tacky. Anything more would have tipped it over. But the way Garrett’s face lit up when he saw it made me appreciate it more than I normally would have.
“Come on,” he urged, practically giddy as he climbed out of the car. I followed him at a more sedate pace and made it to the porch just as the door opened revealing his mother and father. The hugs were tight and his mother got teary. But after the greetings were complete, Garrett turned to me.
The introductions were stilted and awkward. At least, I was. I held myself stiff in his mother’s quick hug and his father did little more than grunt and shake my hand. We were shepherded into the house, and things went from bad to worse as we were forced to make small talk. Dinner was downright uncomfortable. I knew it was me. It was my fault things were strange, but I couldn’t seem to loosen up and relax. Garrett talked a mile a minute to try to make things easier, but while we all talked to Garrett, we didn’t talk to each other.
It wasn’t that late when Garrett finally made our excuses, saying it had been a long day of driving, and we headed up to bed. I was surprised that his parents were allowing us to share a room. Mine certainly never would have, even if we’d been a het couple. But his parents had just wished us a good night, reminded us that we were going out to get the tree in the morning, and we headed upstairs.
Garrett shut the door behind us, and immediately threw himself into my arms. He hugged me tightly, and kissed the side of my neck.
“It’s okay, Andrew,” he murmured, his lips against my skin. “You can relax and enjoy yourself. My mom and dad are not going to say or do anything bad, and when my brother and his kids get here tomorrow, they’ll be focused entirely on them.”
“I’ll try,” I said. I meant it too. It wasn’t going to be easy, but I knew the bulk of the weirdness had been my doing.
“That’s all I ask.” He kissed me softly, and then pulled away. He opened his suitcase and pulled out our toiletry bag. “I’m going to use the bathroom. I’ll leave the stuff in there for you.”
He was gone before I could say thank you, so instead I changed into the silk paisley print pajamas he’d bought me. Normally, I slept naked or maybe in my boxers. But I would feel uncomfortable doing that in his parents house, so Garrett’s solution had been to buy us ridiculous pajamas. I loved the way the fabric felt against my skin, but I still felt silly wearing them. I laid out his pair–a rich emerald green that matched his eyes–and when he returned he gave me a grateful smile. I also saw the way lust darkened his eyes, and I beat a hasty retreat across the hall to the bathroom.
I was not fucking him in his parents house.
I took in the quaint beach themed bathroom while I brushed my teeth. There were little vials of sand and starfish on the shelves, seashell shaped soap in the holder on the sink, and curling waves on the wallpaper boarder. It seemed out of place in this landlocked mountain town, but I figured maybe that’s why it was decorated that way to begin with. I spit, rinsed, and straightened, wiping my mouth on the towel. When I turned, I noticed the spider in the corner of the shower.
I eyeballed the thing for a long moment. It was fairly big, and if Garrett saw it in the morning, he’d have a panic attack. Not that I had any love for the arachnids. I’d read a spooky book when I was young where a spider crawled across a sleeping child’s face. It was supposed to add ambiance to the story, and it had, but I’d never been able to get the image out of my head. If I knew there was a spider in the house, I’d never be able to sleep.
I looked around, and saw a magazine curled up and tucked next to the toilet. I grabbed it, and the glass, and climbed up onto the edge of the tub. I reached, balanced precariously, and nearly fell and bashed my head against the tiled wall. With a bit more stretching, the spider obligingly went into the glass, and I covered it with the magazine. Another near death experience as I attempted to climb down, and then I had both feet solidly on the floor. I took a few deep breaths to steady myself. And then I quickly descended the stairs, walked around the corner into the kitchen, and straight out the back door to let the spider go.
When I turned back to the door and grasped the handle, I realized to my horror that it had locked behind me. I bit back the groan. I didn’t have my phone, so I couldn’t let Garrett know what happened. I was going to have to knock and hope that someone would hear me. At the very least, Garrett would come looking eventually.
I raised my knuckles but before I could rap, the door swung open to reveal Garrett’s formidable father. The man blinked, surprised.
I held up the glass and magazine, like that explained things. “I was liberating a spider, sir. I didn’t want Garrett to see it.”
Garrett Sr. laughed. “Well, you certainly do love my son, if you’re removing spiders from the house.” He stepped back and gestured with his arm. “And you can stop with the sir shit. We aren’t that formal around here. Call me Gary.”
I nodded as I walked inside, shivering a little as the warmth hit me. “Thank you. I, um, I’m sorry. About earlier.”
Gary just waved his hand. “Garrett told us a little about what happened to you. I know this can’t be easy for you. But that you’re willing to try, that you’re here because of Garrett? Well. That tells me all I need to know about how much you care for my son, and that’s the only thing that matters to me. Treat him well, and you won’t ever have a problem with me or his mom.”
The blunt and sincere way he said it left no doubt of his sincerity. Just hearing it made a weight lift from my shoulders. I suddenly felt sure that nothing bad was going to happen, that Garrett was truly accepted by his parents. And if I could learn to relax, then maybe they would learn to like me too.
“I’ll never hurt him if I can help it,” I said, offering my own honesty. “I love him more than I thought it was possible to love another human being.”
“Good,” his father said with a single nod. “That’s how it should be. Now you better get to bed. We have an early start tomorrow. Sometimes it takes hours to find the perfect tree.”
“Hours?” I echoed, even as he steered me toward the stairs.
“Hours,” he confirmed. And then he grinned. “It’s always worth it though.”
I nodded dumbly and ascended the stairs. I was still a little shell shocked by the whole conversation when I entered the bedroom. Garrett was sitting up in bed, a book in his lap, and his frown was concerned when he saw me. “Everything all right, babe?”
I took a second to answer, really thinking about the question. I felt the smile stretching my lips before I was even aware I was going to grin. “Oh yeah. Everything’s perfect.”
He squinted at me. “You sure?”
I’m sure he was wary of my sudden about face. I nodded, and climbed into bed to curl myself around him. “I’m sure. This is going to be a great Christmas.”
He tensed for just a second, and then relaxed, breathing out a contented sigh as he snuggled in. “Yeah. It sure is.”