**Let’s take a pause in the ramp up to the release of Something Like Peace, and visit with Garrett and Andrew once again as they get ready to visit with Garrett’s family. (You can catch up with part 1 and part 2 if you need to.) Enjoy!**
I was not a coward.
I’d jumped off 40 foot cliffs with nothing but a bungee cord attached to my ankle. I’d gone deep sea diving and not even flinched when the stingrays swarmed. Hell, I drove in upstate New York in the middle of winter, for fuck’s sake. So it was no fear holding me back. It was not fear that caused the hard knot in my stomach. It was dread that filled me with trepidation. And maybe a little bit of nerves. And possibly worry.
But certainly not fear.
I loved Garrett with everything I had, and he’d made my world brighter from the moment I met him. Things had been bleak since my parents disowned me, since I’d lost that loving support of my siblings. I hadn’t known how they’d react when I gave them the news about my sexuality, but I’d been hoping for the best. They’d never said anything negative in my presence, so I had reason to hope. To have that crushed had killed a part of me. And though I’d survived, and even thrived, in the years since, it still hurt. Garrett claimed to have his family’s support and love, but I also knew I was the first serious boyfriend he’d had. We were making a life together, one we were working at making last, and I knew that could change everything. Knowing your son was gay was one thing; actually seeing him settled with another man was something else entirely. I never wanted Garrett to face the kind of rejection I’d had to face. And it seemed especially cruel to subject him to that at the holidays.
Christmas had never been a big deal in my house to begin with, but when I’d been kicked out and abandoned it meant even less. I didn’t hate the holidays; I just didn’t see much point of celebrating them on my own. And if Garrett was to be believed, I’d turned jaded.
I pushed that thought from my mind, not wanting to dwell on the things we’d hurled at each other during our fight. We’d wanted to be hurtful, and we’d both succeeded. I felt like a piece of me had been ripped off when he’d driven away and had instantly started planning ways to make it up to him. When he’d texted, I’d replied, even as I worked to bring all his decorations out of storage. I knew it would be the only thing that would make him forgive me. Well, that and agreeing to spending the holidays with his family. Whom I had never met.
He’d begged me to clear my schedule, and since I had nothing pending, I’d cashed in a few favors, passed out the work that couldn’t be left, and taken the week off. My boss was just ecstatic that, for once, she wouldn’t have to pay out all of my vacation time come the end of the year. Garrett had already requested the week off and had been anticipating his vacation for months. I wanted it to be everything he wanted, and I even tried to be excited when he talked about it. We were leaving in the morning, and the drive would take us five or six hours depending on traffic and weather.
Beside me, Garrett slept peacefully, his face smooth and his lush lips parted slightly. He breathed heavily, not quite a snore, and I lay there watching him. I couldn’t sleep myself. I was too ramped up, agitated. Nervous, really. My mind would not shut off. There were so many things that could go wrong, and I wanted so badly for Garrett to have the holiday he deserved.
I slid out of bed carefully so I didn’t disturb him, and then padded on nearly silent feet into the living room. The dark specter of the tree seemed ominous, and I fumbled around until I could get the tree plugged in. The light was blinding for a second, but then my eyes adjusted. The colors bounced off each other and the shiny ornaments, making the whole tree seem to glow. It really was lovely. I sat on the end of the couch and leaned my head back, turning to the side to so I could just stare at the tree.
Suddenly I had a lapful of warm, sleepy boyfriend. I automatically reached up to steady him so he didn’t fall, and Garrett snuggled right in. He was only wearing his boxers, and he shivered in the cooler air. I wrapped him up tightly, and grabbed the afghan from the back of the couch.
“Whatcha doin up?” Garrett asked, then gave a jaw cracking yawn.
“Couldn’t sleep,” I answered simply. It was the bare bones truth. “I didn’t mean to wake you.”
“Tree lights always wake me. I think it’s ingrained from my childhood.” Garrett snorted out a tiny laugh as he snuggled in deeper. “Turn your brain off, Andrew. Everything is going to be fine. We’re going to have a great time at my parents’. It’s gonna be an awesome holiday.”
I wanted to believe that so badly. For his sake. “Tree is really gorgeous,” I said, changing the subject.
He was quiet for a moment, and then let out a soft sigh. “It is. And you didn’t want to put one up at all.”
I laughed and hugged him closer. “You know I didn’t mean that.”
“I know.” He went quiet again, and I was content to hold him and stare at the sparkling lights. Then he turned his head and kissed my neck. “It’s going to be a Christmas to remember.”
I nodded. There was no doubt about that. The question was, would be remembering good times? Or bad? I stared at the tree and sent up a fervent Christmas wish it would be the former.
We’d find out tomorrow, when we got to our destination, if my wish would come true.