Hugh was up first. Hugh was always up first.
He took his coffee out to the little porch and sat, with a blanket tucked around him, watching the waves.
It was the end of their honeymoon. Soon, they’d pack up, say goodbye to Will (who would cry, but try not to), and drive north. Truman would want to touch Will a lot. Will would turn into his skin like a flower to sunlight.
He wasn’t surprised one of them found him. He was a little surprised it was Truman.
“Good morning, my prince.”
Hugh shifted the blanket to make room. “You’re up early.”
“I don’t want to miss anything. And I’m a little somber, for some reason.”
“It’s ending. The honeymoon.” He hesitated. “Our courtship, I think. Part of me is actually grieving it a little.”
“Ah.” Truman threaded their fingers together in a pocket of flannel. “Because it feels like an end, or because you don’t know what waits on the other side?”
“It doesn’t feel like an ending.” Which was true. It was, in a sense, as any transition was, but it didn’t feel like the world had closed, that limits were harder now. “I suppose it must be the second option. The only marriage I’ve ever seen up close was the grandparents, and Antony remembers them fighting quite a bit. I’m not sure that’s here or there.”
“Mm. Well, the grandparents didn’t have a Will. And we fight enough, I think. Unless you have seething resentments you’re just waiting to spring on me at the right moment.”
Hugh smiled at his husband. “No. No, I think we’re safe on that front.”
“Well, I don’t want to model our relationship like my parents’ either, but I’m not worried we’ll lack for inspiration.”
“No, Hugh. I trust we can invent any model we need.”
The sudden wave of sadness was unexpected and Hugh’s hand tightened on Truman’s as if to ward it off. “Sometimes I feel so angry for her, that she missed all this. Not just this in the sense of you and I, or us and Will, though that, too, but she never had a love of her life. Let alone two.”
“Well. Cordelia had you, and I doubt she would have traded that even for more time. Though I do miss her, somehow, if that’s possible. I have actually—” Truman stopped.
“You’ve actually what?”
“I realized it might be intrusive to say this. I’ve actually had whole conversations with her in my head. I’m sorry, is that—too strange? She has had such a role in my world, even though I never had the chance to meet her.”
“It’s not too strange.” What was it, exactly? Truman could speak to Mom if he wanted, or whatever fictional character he’d crafted for her. Though Hugh didn’t really understand how it would be helpful. He didn’t understand how it was helpful to him, though he could acknowledge now that it was.
“What do you talk about?” he asked, not looking over.
“You, of course. Sometimes roses. But she serves as a fair sounding board when you’ve done something mysterious and I can’t understand why.”
“Does she give you advice?”
“Mostly she sounds like Will, in my head. Well. Some mixture of Will and Lucy.”
Hugh smiled. Mom would very much enjoy the description. “That’s not inaccurate. I don’t know. I was just sitting here trying to reason out why I feel more troubled than excited about going back to our lives. I gave Will this whole lecture about Molly, about how they were starting a new thing, not rehashing an old one, but it doesn’t quite apply here.”
“Doesn’t it? I feel like we’re starting something new, even though we don’t have physical markers of it.”
Physical markers. Hugh went very still.
“What is it? Hugh?”
“Perhaps we should have physical markers.”
“All right. Like what?”
He had no idea. “Shouldn’t the wedding be enough? But I’m—dissatisfied, Truman.”
“What, already?” Truman pulled his hand up to kiss. “Keep talking, love. Physical markers. You mean something to reference, something that feels different, not just us waking up in the same bed, drinking coffee out of a much better machine, going to work, coming home.”
“All of which I love. I’m not complaining. But something feels a bit incomplete.” He finally turned. “Do you not feel that? Am I inviting trouble where none existed?”
“I’m not sure I’m feeling the exact same thing, but I can follow your path. A change of state to accompany our change of status. The rings could serve that function. Or we could paint the bedroom.”
“Not—we could do that, if you wanted, but it’s not enough.” Hugh shook his head. “Forgive me. I’m sure it’s nothing.”
Truman watched him for a long moment. “We’ll throw it in front of Will. He might have thoughts. Yes?”
“I don’t want to make trouble. I’m sure it’s—”
“Hugh. Let’s not start married life by settling for less than perfect if we don’t have to.”
“All right. I’m just not sure it’s—solvable.”
“He’s our best man for a reason, Hugh.”
“Hey. Thought I was your best man.” Sleepy, hair-askew Will, blinked at them from the doorway. “Move your asses. Cuddle time on the porch. Man. Hugh, you’ve got a gazillion dollars. Can’t you just buy us a beach house somewhere?”
“I suppose I probably could. It’s never occurred to me.” Hugh moved to one side and Truman to the other so their best man could sit between them.
“Oh, look, you brought me coffee.” Will took over the coffee cup, sipped, winced. “Cold coffee. Lousy host.”
“We’re in your town, Will. Surely if anyone’s hosting here, it’s you.”
“’Cept if we were at my house, we’d have the insulated carafe, and it’d be, like, right here, on the porch, ready to be poured.”
“I think I might do that,” Truman said. “At least on the weekend. Antony bought us an incredible contraption, and it has that kind of carafe.”
“Oh, I don’t know. I like taking my coffee in the kitchen.”
They looked at each other. Will laughed.
“Wait, is this what I should be mediating in my role as best man? Okay, Truman gets Saturdays snuggling with coffee in bed, and Hugh gets Sundays drinking coffee in the kitchen.” He snapped. “There. Done. Hey, this shit is easy. I should go into your line of work, right?”
“Actually, I’ve been thinking about you and careers, Will,” Hugh began.
“Hugh wants something more concrete than rings and a ceremony to mark our new life. Any ideas?”
He shot Truman a frown, only to be ignored by both of them.
“Concrete like what? Hey, we could finally do that sauna thing. That’d be cool. Or, I mean, you guys could.”
“Include yourself with us whenever you want, Will. I mentioned painting the bedroom, but that’s not quite what he wants.”
“I don’t know what I—”
“I think buying your best man a beach house would be solid. I mean, obviously you guys could visit. No? Okay, hang on, let me think.” Will stretched his legs out and looked at the ocean. “So, not that I’m really interested in discussing it, but Moll has a piercing, a new one, I mean since the last time we were together. She got it a year after the assault. It’s kind of a trip, but also, at least for me, I like it. I like it’s like she remade herself a little, like she changed the way she was built, the space she takes up. I don’t know. But I can’t imagine you want a Prince Albert, or something. Or a tattoo, tattoos are good for that.”
Hugh mirrored his position and considered the waves. Among other things. “I always secretly wanted one of those strange ear piercings, not the very wide ones, but wider than a normal earring.”
“Like a really low gauge,” Will suggested. “Actually, I think it’d be a higher gauge, for a hole that’s not huge, but is still bigger than a normal hole.”
“I’m thirty-five. I’m a little old to be pierced for the first time.”
“Dirty,” Truman said. “I disagree. I think this is the perfect time to know that you want something because you want it, and for no other reason. You’re expressing a desire to bookmark this moment, in a sense. This transition. I like it.” His arm stole across Will’s shoulders to touch Hugh’s ear lobe. “Just one or both?”
“One.” Admitting it felt foolish, but if he stared only at the waves, he could do it. “I always liked the idea of having the earring, the gay earring. Not that I’ve been plagued by people assuming I’m straight to any annoying degree, but the level of openness required for the earring has always intrigued me.”
“So we’ll go by Moll’s piercer later.”
“I’m not—we certainly don’t have to—” The fingers at his ear teased, making him shiver. “I have no intention of this being what our day’s about. I can research this when we get home.”
Will shifted closer. “But then you won’t have me.”
“I’ll have you today, at least once. So will Truman.”
“Don’t try to distract me with your damn promises, Hugh. I mean it. What do we lose by checking it out? You can tell her what you want and she’ll show you some jewelry. Plus, I’ve been kind of meaning to scope some stuff out, too.”
“No, that’s—that’s her deal. And I don’t want to be the boyfriend who has to own her shit, especially not that. But I’ve been thinking about tattoos a lot lately, and her piercer shares a studio with a tattoo artist, and they’re both trans, which I don’t know, I kind of like. Feels better than going to some straight white cis dude and being like, ‘Here, do art on my skin.’ Is that weird? Doesn’t feel weird.”
“I understand it, I think. You’ve taken a journey not necessarily acknowledged by your apparent peers.”
“Yeah. Uh. I think I don’t really call myself ‘straight’ anymore. I did, for a really long time. But Davey thought that was freakishly weird, and I kind of talked about it with Beccs and Ads, and Beccs said it’s not appropriating other people’s shit if it’s, you know, true.”
“You worried you were appropriating other people’s shit?”
“I just didn’t want to be the guy with all the privilege who’s like, hey, my best friend is black, I totally get the black experience!”
Hugh traded amusement with Truman, and both of them kissed Will.
“Shut up, you guys.”
“Back to the topic at hand,” Truman said. “We have a few days here, and I’ve never seen Santa Barbara. Take us on a tour, Will. We can decide later if today’s the day to acquire body modifications.”
“I’m not actually—at least, I don’t plan to—” Hugh paused, aware that all of his arguments for not exploring the world of Will’s trans piercer basically amounted to I’m not sure yet, but maybe if I procrastinate I’ll be sure eventually. “All right. First things first, and then a field trip.”
“And by first things first…”
“It’d ruin the surprise if I told you, Will. Did you and Molly follow my instructions?”
Hugh didn’t necessarily like to exploit the control he had over Will’s blush, but it was, after all, his honeymoon.
“I’m sure you did just fine, love,” Truman said. “Of course, if you failed to complete your homework to Hugh’s specifications, you’ll need to be punished.”
Will groaned. “Shut up. You’re both dicks.”
“Sounds like baby boy could use a spanking,” Hugh said to his husband.
“Maybe he forgets who’s in charge around here.”
Will groaned, again, but this time he kept the commentary to himself.
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