I leave a lot of open loops in the Scientific Method Universe books. More than really makes sense, but I’ve been writing these characters for so many years (and there are so very many stories I have yet to tell), I indulge myself.
One of the open loops after The Boyfriends Tie the Knot was about Jeremy and Will. I played with it a little in “Brotherly Love”, but it still didn’t satisfy me. It wasn’t enough to be a book, it was too much to just be a scene. And so we have this bit, from Jer’s perspective: “The Housewarming Party”. This takes place about a month, month and a half after The New Born Year. I’ll probably keep playing with this one, adding more little hints here and there, but for now it’s doing what I require.
I really love writing the Derrie cousins all talking at once. They are absolutely the reason I fell in love with writing dialogue as a teenager. I really feel like I’m kind of introducing them to you guys right now, like they’re family members you haven’t met yet. Ha. I do amuse myself.
Without more rambling–here we go.
Jeremy sat in the back seat of the SUV and stared out the window.
“Jer’s freaking the fuck out. You guys sure we can’t just go to Fenton’s?”
“Frances, be quiet. Jeremy is fine.”
Jeremy glanced up at the rear view mirror in time to catch Singer’s eye. “This isn’t—I’m not a fucking homophobe, Singer.”
“I have reason to know that, and I’ve actually defended you.”
“That’s true,” Jake added. “He defended you to Ads, so…”
“Ads! Listen, Ads doesn’t get to—he doesn’t—goddammit.” He sank back into his seat. “I don’t want to rub elbows with the guy. Is that such a big thing? Seriously?”
“Sure, Jer.” Frankie punched him hard in the arm. “Except for the whole thing where you’re kind of a homophobe.”
“I am not—”
“So really? Because I kinda feel like if Will happened to be banging a chick on the side, you’d be a fuck of a lot calmer rubbing elbows with her, Jer.”
“Is this gonna turn into some kind of feminist bullshit about the patriarchy—”
“If the two of you don’t stop fighting right now I’m going to pull this car over,” Singer said, mildly, from the front.
“Put your blinker on,” Jake mumbled. “They haven’t stopped fighting in twenty years.”
Another meaningful look in the rear view.
“What, Singer? What?”
“You were the first person I ever came out to.”
And whoa, what the fuck just happened?
“Aw,” Frankie said, and punched him again, slightly less hard. “That’s so sweet, Jer. You were Singer’s first!”
“Seriously?” he said to Singer’s reflection. “I didn’t know that.”
“Huh. Well, you were the first person who ever came out to me, back when genius, there, was still in the closet.”
Jake flipped him off without looking back.
“Jesus,” Jeremy said, and really thought about it. “I was like, ‘Hey, whoa, I’m not gay, I just like being in plays, man.’ Sorry, Singer.”
“No need to apologize. What I remember is that you never hesitated to sit next to me, or share a soda, or wait for me on the way out to the parking lot. There were people I told after that who managed the initial reaction more smoothly, and subtly avoided me thereafter.”
“Shit.” He dodged a third punch and leaned over his knees. “It’s not like Will said he’s gay. It’s like he just—has this whole side of his life that no one even fucking mentioned to me. I mean, Christ. It’s been years. I made Ads tell me.”
“If that’s why you’re angry, you should be angry at me, too.”
“Because Will called me six years ago to ask if gay men notice when their date wears a nice shirt.”
Frankie exploded into laughter. “Oh, fucking picture that. God, Singer, what the hell did you say?”
“I told him that some people notice a nice shirt, and some people don’t, but it was worth it to wear one if it made him happy.”
“And that, right there, is why he called Singer fucking Thurman, and not someone he was related to by blood. Because we would have grilled his ass all goddamn night.”
“Also, I was, at the time, one of the only gay men he knew.”
Because that was before Jake came out. Actually, six years, that would have been, like, exactly when Jake came out. Jeremy studied the back of his cousin’s head, sitting on the passenger side, pretending he wasn’t paying attention. Coming out had pretty much sucked for Jakey. Maybe it wasn’t a huge shocker Will hadn’t exactly jumped into the fray.
It was a little weird that it hadn’t even occurred to him until this second that Jake might have had something to do with it. And Carey.
“You want me to kick Care’s ass for you? I know it’s a little late, but I’m offering.”
“You gonna make me kick your ass, too?”
“No. Fuck. No, I’m not. All right. Yeah, it’s fucking weird to me that Will’s having sex with some guy.”
“Two of them,” Frankie added. “And a girlfriend. Seriously, he must be fucking exhausted.”
“Thank you, Frances. That’s enough.”
“Singer, you can’t ‘Frances’ me twice in one car ride.”
“It’s not even that long a ride,” Jake added.
“It’s just—I’m gonna shake this guy’s hand, you know? And Ads said—Ads said he thinks this guy kind of saved Will’s life and I didn’t even know he was messed up. How the hell did I miss that? How’d I miss it, and some fuckin’ stranger saw it, fixed it, and became part of the goddamn family without me ever knowing he existed?”
“Maybe we should just be happy he did, Jer,” Jake said, craning around in his seat. “That’s what I keep coming back to. Maybe it’s weird we don’t know every detail about Will’s life, but maybe that’s not a bad thing. It’s more, y’know, normal than we usually are.”
Frankie nodded. “Yeah. The twins escaped Derrie codependence. Lucky bastards.”
“Or they just found it in other places,” Singer said. “We’re here.”
Oh god. Here. The new place. Which is about when Jeremy remembered it wasn’t just the gay men Will was apparently all buddy-buddy with, but the girlfriend he’d freaked over, too. And Ads’s nutty feminazi she’s-my-partner-not-my-girlfriend.
“So, Fenton’s?” he asked weakly.
“Maybe if you kids behave yourselves. Everybody out.”
* * *
He didn’t recognize the woman who answered the door.
“Oh boy, you must be Jeremy. You look like an older version of Adam. I mean, not older like bad, just older, like you’re slightly older. Than Adam.” She covered her mouth. “Sorry!”
“Yep. He’s Jeremy, I’m Frankie, this is Jake, this is Singer.” Frankie held out a hand. “Good to meet you, though I don’t know who you are.”
“Right! Sorry, I’m Ally, Truman’s sister. Also, I kind of live here, though I just, like, moved in. Three days ago, actually. Any boxes are totally my fault.” She turned. “Will! Adam!”
“Who’s Truman?” Frank mumbled out the corner of her mouth.
“No idea,” he mumbled back.
“Oh, hey, guys.” Ads, thank god. He gave them all hugs. “Welcome to the commune. Posh, right? Let me give you the tour.”
The house was big, in a pretty depressed neighborhood in Richmond, which was probably why they could afford it. (Jake and Singer and Frankie lived in a nice house in a decent neighborhood in Moraga, but they all had good jobs, too. Jeremy didn’t know why he was suddenly thinking about living situations, since he liked his crummy apartment just fine. And there was no way he was about to ask Maria to move in yet. Even if it kind of seemed like maybe they both wanted her to.)
He shook his head, and happened to be looking in the direction of the kitchen while he did it. The kitchen. Where Will, Will’s ex-no-current girlfriend, and some random guy were standing.
Was that the guy? No. Wait, maybe it was the guy the guy was married to, or something. Jeremy had definitely seen him before.
“Hey, look who the cat dragged in,” Ads said, playing the joker. “Jer, you’ve met Moll and Truman. Moll, Truman, this is our cousin Frankie, our cousin Jake, and Singer, who’s only an honorary Derrie.”
“Like being a Derrie’s a prize we award to hand-picked people,” Frankie said. “Ha, Ads.”
“It kind of is!”
Everyone shook hands, and Jer shook hands with Molly (and didn’t make eye contact), and Truman (so this was the brother of the fifth roommate, who was also the husband of the guy?).
Also, Will wasn’t meeting his eye, which sucked. A lot. Will was waiting for him to be a dickhead.
“I think we’ve got the dresser more or less wedged under the dormer now,” another guy said, and oh, right, this was the guy, short, with glasses, and kind of gnome-like, except not really unless Jeremy worked at it. “I apologize, I didn’t hear anyone arrive. Where did Ally get off to?”
“Ha, so you and Beccs are upstairs moving Al’s furniture, and she’s, what, doing her nails? Sweet.”
“Can it, Ads. Ally’s unpacking dishes in the dining room.”
“Oh, right, Ally’s got dishes. Like good dishes.”
“Well,” the first guy, Truman, said. “They’re the dishes Mom most wanted to get rid of when she was moving out of the house. I’m not sure I’d call them good.”
“They’ve got to be better than the chipped Target pieces of crap we’ve been eating off of,” Molly said. “I’ll go, uh, help her. Or something.”
And the guy? The guy. Hugh. Hugh smiled right at Jeremy and walked forward to shake his hand. “Good to see you again, Jeremy. No Maria today?”
“Ah.” He turned to everyone else, and Ads did another ridiculous introduction, but Jeremy couldn’t exactly stop watching him.
This was the guy who looked at Will and saw what even his own brother didn’t see? How was that even possible? This was the guy you figured was picked last for every sport and didn’t feel comfortable out of a suit. (He had on a casual suit now. No tie, sleeves rolled up, but it was a suit.)
“Ha, Hugh, Jer is totally checking you out right now.” Adam shoved the guy like it was nothing, like he treated this Hugh person the same as he treated Will. Or Jeremy.
The doorbell rang.
“I hope that’s Lucy and her harem. We may need help with Ally’s new bed.” And Hugh went through to open the door.
He’s my brother. You’re nothing. You’re an interloper. He’s been my brother his whole fucking life! Which was so dumb, since being jealous of some friend-with-benefits of Will’s was pretty weird.
“I’m gonna go outside for a few minutes,” Jeremy said, and already had his cigarettes out before he reached the backyard.
He called Carey.
“So the guy is here,” he said, blowing smoke through the branches just starting to bud on the crabapple tree in the back corner of their shit-hole yard.
“I thought there were two of them,” Care replied.
“Are you fucking laughing at me right now, boss man? Because fuck you.”
“Well. Yes. But aren’t there two of them?”
“Christ. Yeah. But only one of them makes me want to punch him.”
“That’s interesting, Jer.”
Shifting, shuffling, the sound of a window shutting and some of the background noise cut out. It was, what, six o’clock in New York right now? He was standing here in a dirt lot backyard in Richmond while Care was looking down at Manhattan evening traffic. Fucking weird.
“Singer says I’m not a homophobe,” he said, for lack of anything better to say.
“Did someone say you are?”
“Ads. But I think he’s fucking with me.” Maybe. He started another cigarette.
“If Will’s having sex with two men and you only want to punch one of them, homophobia’s probably not the root of your problem, Jer.”
“Oh, thanks. And can you please never use the words ‘Will’ and ‘sex’ in the same sentence again? Thanks. Jesus.” He blew more smoke, wishing it would linger, wishing he could build a protective smoky bubble in which to hide. “Fuck me, Care, I don’t know. I’m trying to be cool, but the guy bothers me.”
“Did you actually talk to him? I mean, it sounds like he’s probably pretty okay. Adam said one of his favorite pastimes is psychoanalyzing people. He should get along with our family famously, Jer, you know? He should fit right in.”
“I don’t want him psychoanalyzing me! I don’t want him anywhere near me. Or Will.”
“Yeah, now I’m getting that homophobe vibe,” Carey said, sounding amused again.
“You should talk.” Which was simultaneously the right thing to say, and the wrong thing.
“I do consider myself the family expert on older brother homophobic screw-ups.”
Damn. “Care, it’s not like that shit was your fault—”
“It’s not like I can blame anyone else for it. Of course it was my fault. It hurt Jake, it hurt you guys, it obviously affected Will, and it hurt me. So whatever you do, don’t walk away without making it right, Jer, okay? You’ll regret it. Trust me.”
Yeah, Jakey went pretty dark back then. He didn’t really come out of it until he and Frank and Singer all moved into Singer’s folks’ place while they were in Southern California. He started smiling again. And laughing.
“Fuck,” Jeremy mumbled, putting his cigarette out on the sole of his shoe and tucking the butt back in the pack. He didn’t want to be the reason Will didn’t laugh today. That would suck. “I don’t know why this guy pisses me off so much. But why—if Will had fucking problems, why couldn’t he come to us? That’s like why we exist. That’s the whole—the whole purpose of this fucking family. We deal with shit together. And you know where he went after Aunt Jeanie’s rosary? To this guy’s house. He left my place and went to his house.”
“You’d rather he stayed at your place, miserable, when he could have been with friends? Jesus, Jer, get it together, okay? You know what I did after Aunt Jeanie’s rosary? I drank until I blacked out. Frankie had to splash water on me when she came to pick me up for the funeral. Will’s idea was better.”
“Shit. I know that. He just—dammit.”
“Where are you now?” Care asked.
“Outside. They have a yard.”
“They have a yard? Cool.”
“Yeah, it’s all scrubgrass and dirt.”
“Well, I have a fire escape with three dead plants on it, so they have me beat. Listen, Jer, you’ve got this. Will and Ads both like these guys, so they’re probably our kind of people. Maybe you should just talk to them. Like they’re, I don’t know, people.”
“Since when has ‘they’re people’ been a selling point to you, boss man?”
“Hey, I’m growing and changing just like everyone else, Jer. Go tell the twins I’ll come visit next time I’m in California.”
“Yeah, all right. Fine.” He stowed the cigarettes in his pocket. “Fine. Thanks, Care.”
“Anytime I can massively screw up and save you the trouble, Jer. See ya.”
They hung up.
Right. Make nice with Will’s friends, the ones he was having sex with. Sure. No problemo.
Well. Maybe just one more smoke first.
* * *
He didn’t like Maria’s cousin much more than he liked the guy. Maria’s cousin, Lucy, was one of those women Jeremy knew instinctively to avoid. The kind of woman you might think you were getting along fine with, right up until they gut you with a rusty knife, spill your innards into their cauldron, and speak fake Latin while waving a wand and watching you die.
“Lookie here, Buzzkill decided to grace us with his presence,” she said, sizing him up. (Probably for her cauldron.) “Nice seeing you, Jeremy.”
Which was obviously a lie, but at least she wasn’t demanding a handshake.
“I didn’t get a chance to introduce you to my boys at the wedding. Leo, Eddie, this is Maria’s friend Jeremy.”
He shook hands with the two men, trying to decide if he should correct her. (Though saying, “I’m her boyfriend,” seemed sort of absurd.) “Good to meet you.”
“You too,” the white guy said. The black guy didn’t say anything, or look up, but his handshake was strong. “So you’re dating Maria and you’re also Will and Adam’s brother? Small world.”
“Yeah. Pretty small.” Cue awkward silence.
“We should go make sure everything’s settled upstairs,” the guy said. Then both of them walked away.
A knock at the door. Jesus, how many fucking friends did they have?
Jeremy beat Lucy to the door and opened it, but she was the one who laughed out loud and greeted the guys on the front porch.
“You two time it just right to get out of the manual labor?”
“We would have, if we’d known that was a thing. Hey, Luce.” The white dude, who was tall and broad and smiling, raised his eyebrows at Jeremy, then turned to the other guy, who was black.
The guy held out his hand. “I’m Bernie.”
The white guy, still smiling, also held out his hand. “I’m Nick. You’ve got to be one of the cousins, right?”
“He’s the older brother,” Lucy said, like this was a sage piece of information.
The guy’s eyes widened a little. “I always forget there’s an older brother, sorry. Tell me your name again?”
“Jeremy, right, good to meet you. Bern and I are friends of the house.”
“Friends of the house!” Lucy laughed again. “You really are. And what a hell of a house it is. What’d you bring?”
“Brownies, but I’m giving them directly to Eddie, Mistress.”
“You wound me, Nicky.”
Jeremy stood back, watching them, trying to unknot the part of his heart that kept beat in time to I always forget there’s an older brother. Lucy hugged Nick, the white guy, and kissed both cheeks of the black guy. Bernie? Dammit, he was already forgetting.
All of these people were friends with the twins? His twins? Who spent their entire school lives in Catholic school? Was this a thing where you meet one gay guy, suddenly you’re surrounded by them? Was that a homophobic thing to think? (And while he was eradicating that, he should probably also stop wondering if the presence of two black people was down to Molly being black, especially considering that she wasn’t even from the Bay Area and probably hadn’t made a huge group of exclusively black friends in the last month. Now he was a racist and a homophobe.)
Frankie laughed on the stairs, following Ads’s girlfriend (partner, whatever) down. “Now you have to tell me more. He actually told you that he thought it would cripple your career if you quit?”
“Because women have to be extra careful about changing jobs or we’ll be seen as flakey.” The girlfriend/partner saw all of them standing there. “I didn’t know you had arrived. Have you guys met Frankie?”
“We’ve barely met Jeremy and he’s the one who opened the door.”
“Frankie, this is Nick and Bernie. Do you mind giving all the food to Eddie? I think he’s organizing.”
“Already the plan, Beccs.” Nick kissed her cheek. “How’s the big move?”
“We’re pretty officially here, but we’re still convincing Ally that she doesn’t have to keep all of her earthly possessions in her room.”
“Ah, the awkward roommate. There’s always one. Is Eddie in the kitchen?”
“I think he’ll be down in a minute. Oh, sorry, it’s just through there.” She pointed, and the two of them went through where she’d indicated, with Lucy following on their heels. “Make yourselves at home!” the girlfriend called.
Jeremy shifted on his feet. “So, back in the Bay Area, huh?”
“Looks like,” she said. “I’m gonna go switch laundry around. I think snacks should be out soon.” She waved and walked through another door, which apparently went to a garage.
“I hate this,” Jeremy muttered. “I don’t know who the fuck half these people are, and all of them know my brothers.”
“It is their party, Jer. Lighten up.”
“Don’t fucking punch me again, Frank. Don’t.”
She didn’t, but she did frown. “God, you’re serious. Jer, really, they all seem nice. Why are you freaking out so hard?”
Because I haven’t fixed shit with Will yet and he won’t even look me in the eye. “I’m not.”
“Uh huh. Okey doke. I’m gonna go back upstairs. Oh, hey, sorry, didn’t hear you coming down.”
“See ya, Jer!” Frankie called.
Dammit. He didn’t remember this guy’s name, either. The guy—the younger black guy, who came in with Lucy—kind of smiled and walked past him, then paused.
Jeremy looked over, because that’s what you do when you’re the only other person in the room and someone pauses.
“Do you want to help with the food? I think they’ve got enough hands upstairs. Maybe too many.”
“Yeah. Yeah, that’d be—” Well, it’d be better than just standing here.
It might have been. Ish. Except the two guys who just showed up were also in the kitchen, and making Jeremy uncomfortable. He couldn’t figure out why.
Okay, so part of it was they were gay. I am not a homophobe. I am not a homophobe. Dammit, he couldn’t be a homophobe. Shit, look at Jake and Singer. He spent like huge amounts of time with them; he couldn’t be a homophobe.
But part of it was also how they treated the young guy.
“Puppy,” the older black guy said. “Do you know the way around this kitchen?”
“No, sir. Are you looking for a baking dish?” This had to be Eddie, the guy everyone was giving food to, right? Eddie, if that was the name of the younger black guy, started poking around in the kitchen.
“So, the older brother,” Nick said. “The twins are a handful, huh?”
“Yeah, always. Hey, you guys want a beer? We brought beer.” Booze was the best way to bond, right? The twins were still Derries, for fuck’s sake.
Nick looked over at the black guy, who said, “Your call, Nicky.” Then the black guy looked at Jeremy and said, “No thank you.”
The fuck? Jeremy looked back at Nick, who grinned. “Oh man. So did Adam just fuck with you all the time? You and Will have the exact same poker face. I apologize for pretty much everyone.”
Nick held up his hands. “That’s one, Bern. I’d love a beer, Jeremy. Thanks.” He nudged the younger guy. “Eddie doesn’t drink.”
“But thank you anyway,” Eddie added, not meeting his eyes. “Baking dish, sir.”
And why the fuck was he calling the older black guy sir? Like what the hell?
Jeremy got a beer for himself and Nick, and vowed not to say anything for the rest of the night.
* * *
“You’ve got to be fucking joking me,” Jeremy said. “Frank, for real, that’s—gross.”
“I will bet you twenty fucking quid it’s true. I know it’s true. Aunt Jeanie was hot for Uncle Reid.”
Ads raised his hand. “You guys are both freaking me out.”
“Twenty dollars, and you’re on.”
Frankie was shaking her head as she pulled out her phone. “You better have money on you.”
They were scattered around the living room, picking at the last of their food. Some contingent was cleaning up or doing other kitchen-based things, but unfortunately it didn’t include the guy, who was sitting next to Will on the couch. Also, Lucy was talking to Rebecca and what’s-her-name, Molly, in the corner. So the room had a lot of danger zones, but Jeremy was about to score twenty bucks off Frankie’s screwed up memory, so he didn’t much care.
“Care, you gotta help me win a bet,” Frankie said, putting the phone on the coffee table.
“Do I? Pretty sure unless you’re cutting me in, I really don’t, Frank. I thought you were at the twins’ new place?”
“We are, we are, but that’s not important—”
“Am I on speaker?”
Frankie rolled her eyes. “Yeah, Care. Care, say hi to everyone, everyone, say hi to Care.”
“Christ, can we—”
“Frankie, Jake, Jeremy, Adam, Will, Will’s friend Hugh, Maria’s cousin Lucy, Adam’s partner Rebecca, Will’s partner Molly, and, ah, Adam and Will’s friend Leo,” Singer said.
“Hey, Singer. Thanks for taking roll.”
“Hi, everyone. What’s the bet?”
Frankie leaned forward. “Aunt Jeanie had the hots for Uncle Reid, right?”
Silence. Then: “This is what you guys are betting on?”
“Care, just fucking—”
Because Jeremy happened to be looking across the room, he saw the smile. Hugh smiled at Will. It was just a smile, except it wasn’t a we’re just pals smile. It was something else.
“Can you tell your imbecilic cousin that they were totally dating before Reid went into the priesthood and that’s why Aunt Jeanie had like no boyfriends until she hooked up with Grandpa? Thanks, Care, that’d be great.”
Hugh nudged Will. “Aunt Jeanie hooked up with your grandfather? I didn’t know that.”
“Who’s that?” Carey asked.
Will cleared his throat. “Hey, Carey. Um, this is my friend Hugh. Hugh, Carey.”
“Hi, Will. Good to meet you, Hugh.”
“You as well. Sorry to interrupt. I thought I had the family tree pretty well mapped out, but I’m learning new things.”
“Aunt Jeanie was married to Grandpa for like our entire childhoods,” Ads said. “She and Gramma didn’t talk for fifteen years or something.”
“Seventeen,” Frankie said. “They only started talking again after Grandpa died.”
“Fascinating,” the guy said, like he actually meant it. “I admit, Uncle Reid is a new name to me as well.”
Frankie looked across the room, but she’d started it. Jeremy shrugged.
“Uncle Reid committed suicide in 1948,” Care explained.
“But before that, and before he went into the seminary, he and Jeanie hooked up. Please confirm so I can have my twenty bucks.”
The guy sitting in the chair on the other side of the couch raised his eyebrows. “Catholic seminary?”
“Oh my fucking god—”
“Frankie, shut up,” Will said. “Yeah, Leo. He actually got ordained.”
“But then he killed himself,” Ads added. “So, uh, we’re not like recommending it.”
“Was the bet that they hooked up or that Aunt Jeanie had a thing for Uncle Reid?” Carey asked.
“What the fuck can it possibly matter, boss man? Answer the question!”
“It matters because they’re two different things.”
Frankie shook her head. “I’m going to fly across the country just to kick your ass. Aunt Jeanie had the hots for Uncle Reid. Bet.”
“Jer? That the bet you remember?”
He dodged the shoe Frankie bombed at him. “Yeah, Care.”
“Okay, well, Frank wins that round, but they never dated. And Uncle Reid definitely didn’t, uh, feel the same way.”
“Hold up, what d’you mean he didn’t feel the same? Like because of God?”
“No, Frank.” Carey paused again. “Reid was gay. But Aunt Jeanie said she didn’t know that until after he died.”
“Oh holy shit,” Frankie said.
Even from the far wall, Jeremy could see Jake go tense.
“How the hell did you end up in a conversation with Aunt Jeanie that—” No good way to end that sentence, but thankfully Care was clearing his throat, so that was probably a sign Jeremy could stop talking.
“She told me. I think she might have been implying that homosexuality runs in the family.”
Will groaned. “Oh my god, Carey, please say Aunt Jeanie didn’t really say that.”
“Uh, right, says the guy with two boyfriends,” Ads mumbled. Will kicked him. “What?”
Oh my god, Will has two boyfriends. What the fuck does that even mean? Hugh was looking right at him. Hugh was staring right at Jeremy, like he knew what he was thinking.
He tried to think Fuck you really hard, but it didn’t seem to faze the guy.
“Well, she didn’t come right out and say it. Exactly. Though I think—I think the phrase ‘skips a generation’ may have been mentioned.”
Frankie laughed. “Shit, Aunt Jeanie.”
Jakey shifted closer to the phone. “She thinks I inherited gay from Uncle Reid, Care?”
“Hey, Jakey. She mostly thought I should, you know, get over myself. Anyway, she definitely imagined some future where Uncle Reid would leave the church and marry her, but then he gave her a book before he died, a book of poems or something. She said she didn’t even really want it except it meant so much to him to give it to her. She didn’t read it until after he was gone, and he’d tucked a letter into it saying that he was so sorry he wasn’t strong enough to fight his feelings.”
“Uncle Reid tucked his suicide note in a book of poems?” Jeremy asked. “Really?”
“I don’t think it was a suicide note. I think it was a confession.”
“Oh my god,” Will said. “We are like so fucked up.”
“That definitely runs in the family, Willie,” Carey replied. “And she always thought maybe if she’d found the letter sooner, she could have talked to him.”
“That may be the saddest story I’ve ever heard,” Singer murmured. He and Jake were sitting together, but not touching. He and Jake hardly ever touched, not out in the open. Still, he was looking at the side of Jake’s face like maybe he wished they did. “Is there—is Uncle Reid buried with Aunt Jeanie, do you know, Carey?”
“I think there’s a marker for him, but he—he couldn’t be on consecrated ground.”
“Because he killed himself,” Leo said.
Singer nodded. “I may take a drive out there later this week, if anyone’s interested.”
“I’ll go,” Frankie said. “Is it weird we didn’t know any of this shit? I mean, come on. Uncle Reid’s gay? How did that not make it into the Derrie archives?”
“Because of Gramma.” Jake addressed the phone. “Right, Care?”
“Because they didn’t want anyone to know, yeah. Because Jeanie told Gramma, and Gramma told Grandpa, but they never told her parents.”
“The suicide would have been a big secret itself,” the guy, Leo, said. “A scandal.”
“Gramma always said the great-grandparents never really got over it, yeah,” Frank said. “Shit. I don’t want your money, Jer. This bet sucked.”
“I don’t know,” Jake said. “I wish I’d known Uncle Reid was gay a long time ago.”
“Uh, sorry, Jakey. I probably should have, you know, mentioned it.”
“Well, we weren’t really talking at the time, right? That’s why you got the whole lecture?”
“Yeah. But it’s been a while since then. I don’t know why I’m still keeping their secrets.”
“Because they’re fucking tragic, man.” Ads shuddered, shaking out his hands, rolling his neck. He settled back against the couch, next to Will’s legs. “I’m so sad right now.”
“Picture that,” Jeremy said. “Ads has feelings.”
He’d meant it as a joke, but Will reached out to pull Adam’s hair and Hugh, AKA the guy, looked at Jeremy like he was a fascinating bug, like he’d just done something inexplicable but any minute now Hugh would figure out why. He looked away fast.
“Happy I could stop by,” Care said dryly. “You guys ever notice I bring the tone of any gathering down to my level?”
“Can it, Carson.” Frankie waved a hand over the phone. “You ever think of maybe gracing us with your presence sometime? In person, not by phone to settle a bet.”
“I think about it everyday, Franklin. Anyway, I gotta go. Love you guys.”
They chorused variations on “love you, too”, and Singer said, “Goodbye, Carey.” The rest of the room didn’t say anything, but now that Jeremy was paying attention, he realized Lucy had stopped talking and was looking over at Leo. He watched her open her mouth, but when she spoke, her voice was louder than he expected.
It kind of startled everyone, but she didn’t seem to give a shit. (She was that kind of woman. She didn’t give a shit and she reminded you just how much she didn’t give a shit all the time.)
The younger guy from earlier came in from the kitchen, with Nick behind him. Eddie went to Lucy, who said something to him. Then he went to Leo and knelt. On the floor. At his feet.
“I’m fine. Tell Mistress I’m fine. She’s so dramatic, Eddie.” But the guy put his hand on Eddie’s head and left it there.
In some other part of the world, Singer was making plans to go to the cemetery, and Frankie was trying to convince Jakey to go, which would have run pretty much in one ear and out the other except Ads hit Will’s leg and said, “We’ll go, too.”
Ha. It was always fun when the Derries surprised Singer. After a few years living with Jake and Frankie, he was getting a lot harder to shock, but the twins volunteering for an outing did it.
“Of course. Will you guys meet us at the house? We can seat seven in the crossover.”
“In the soccer mom car,” Frankie corrected.
Singer shot her a look.
“What? It totally is. Like you haven’t pictured—”
“Everything you’re about to say is a jinx, Frank,” Jakey said, holding up his hand. “Quit it.”
“Hang on. What? Uh.” Ads leaned forward. “No shit?”
“We’re inside the process, but it could take years,” Singer told him. “I assumed you’d heard through Derrie bush telegraph.”
Will tuned back in and nudged Ads with his shoe. “Heard what?”
“Adoption?” Ads asked.
“It’s a very long process.”
“No fucking way. You guys, that’s awesome!” Will jumped over the coffee table to hug them. “Oh my god! You guys are gonna be—”
“JINXES,” Jake shouted to cover the word Will wasn’t allowed to say.
Hugh cleared his throat. “Where are you in the process, if you don’t mind my asking?”
“Paperwork hell,” Frankie said. “Someday we’ll have a kitchen table again, but right now it’s got every fucking form you can imagine, most of them in triplicate.”
“We haven’t scheduled the home visit yet,” Singer added. “That’s the next milestone, after we officially enter the system.”
Hugh nodded. “And am I correct in recalling you have a non-traditional living arrangement?”
Frankie burst out laughing. “That’s me! I am the non-traditional living arrangement! Holy shit, that’s funny.”
“Frances lives in the in-law unit out back.”
“Like a tumor,” Jeremy added. Which was the wrong thing to say, because Will shot a fierce look at him, even if Hugh didn’t react.
“I think ‘non-traditional’ describes it pretty well. And although we’ve signed a contract to the effect that she won’t be changing diapers, I am looking forward to having an irreverent third adult in the house.”
“Aw! You love me, you really love me!”
“I can’t believe we didn’t know this,” Will said. “Especially because Ads—”
“Will kill you in your sleep, Willie, shut your mouth.”
Will blinked. “Uh, okay. But—”
“This sounds like a good time for dessert,” Nick said from the doorway. “Eddie, you trust me to serve?”
“We’ll help,” Leo replied.
Just like that: people started moving, dessert was acquired, and the groups reconfigured in a totally different way.
Jeremy went outside to smoke a cigarette. Shit. Shit. What the hell was going on in there? He blew smoke rings and tried to pretend he belonged here, in his brothers’ house.
The door opened. Fuck. Not the guy, the husband.
“Mind if I stand here for a minute? My sister is nervous, and when she’s nervous she talks incessantly. I need a minute of not hearing her voice.” The husband shook his head. “God, what a horrible first impression.”
“Not as bad as mine was,” Jeremy said, after a beat, watching his face.
The husband smiled. “I think Lucy volunteered to hold the grudge about that one.”
“Ha. Yeah. That’s for fucking sure. Your sister is Ally?”
“That she is. Don’t get me wrong, I’m thrilled she’s here, and even more thrilled that she actually moved in, but her anxiety is very…loud.”
“Funny. When Will’s nervous, he doesn’t open his mouth at all.”
“And when he does, it’s to sound like Adam,” the guy agreed.
It didn’t feel like he was trying to one-up, so Jeremy allowed himself not to take offense. He started on another cigarette and offered the pack, but the husband shook his head.
“No thank you. I couldn’t tell what happened in the living room, but whatever it was seemed heavy.”
Digging for details? Making conversation? Dammit. Why’d Will have to get boyfriends who were also shrinks? It was annoying.
“Well,” Jeremy said, blowing more smoke rings, half-turned-away. “My cousin Carey just told all of us, by speakerphone, that Great-Uncle Reid, who killed himself when he was—” He did math as he smoked. “He would have been twenty-four, I think. He was a priest, and he was twenty-four, and apparently he was also gay.”
Hard to see how the husband took that; after a moment he took a breath. “I guess it’s a little late to say I’m sorry for your loss.”
“Yeah, well. Anyway, I’m pretty sure the whole thing was a fuckin’ fable.” He waved the cigarette. “I’m sorry I was a dick about you and Will. I don’t really get the whole thing where he’s sitting in there right now with your husband and his girlfriend’s like ten feet away, but you know, not my shit.”
“Oh, I’m the person you owe an apology to the least, Jeremy. Unless it’s for hurting your brother’s feelings, which affects me only because I love him very, very much.”
Jeremy swallowed. “It surprised me. I didn’t—I had no reason to—he was with girls before. He didn’t tell me that had changed. Or whatever. I’m not a fuckin’ homophobe, okay? I just don’t like—” Hugh. Right. No. Probably don’t say that.
“Ah.” Truman took a step forward, and he still looked pretty relaxed, but when he spoke, there wasn’t anything light in his tone. “I think you may be stuck with us, Jeremy. We have absolutely no intention of disappearing, so you might make an effort, in Will’s best interest, to get along with Hugh. At least until he actually earns your irritation—and don’t worry, he will. I’ll see you inside.”
Shit. Jeremy watched the door shut behind—Truman, that was his name, like Singer’s last name without the “h”, slightly rearranged—and tried to figure out how he felt about that. Because on one hand: fuck you. And on the other…Adam liked these guys. Jeremy didn’t need any other forms of proof that they were good for Will. Ads liked them, and they liked him. So whatever the fuck else was going on, they had to be pretty decent dudes.
So he was probably gonna have to talk to the guy. But he was definitely going to have to talk to Will, and that was gonna suck.
Jeremy ground down his cigarette butt and tucked it back into the pack, since the twins didn’t have an ashtray. Great. This night fucking blew.
* * *
He got to put off the inevitable for a while longer because Ads took him on a tour of the house. It was a little bigger than he’d thought it was; the upstairs had four bedrooms, which was pretty cool, so they could get another roommate if they needed to.
“But for real, we already have five people living here, so I think we’re good. What d’you think, Jer?”
“Pretty cool, little brother.” Crappy neighborhood, but the house was all right. He shoved Ads lightly. “I’m glad you guys are home. Feels like you were gone forever.”
“Yeah. Well, we’re glad to be back, too. It’s cool seeing everyone more, especially if Jakey and Singer are gonna have a kid. I mean fuck, you know?”
“Plus, it’s good having the boyfriends around, and not just because sometimes they show up with enough food for us to eat for like three days.” Ads leaned back against the window in the room he shared with Rebecca, the window that looked down on the street, not the backyard. “You still have a problem with that?”
“Hey, fuck off, Ads. I even apologized to one of them.”
“Yeah, that only counts if it’s Hugh. Or Moll. You owe her an apology, too.”
Jeremy looked away. “Leave it alone, okay? What the fuck do you want from me?”
“Jeez, I don’t know. I want you to stop making Will feel like he can’t have his own brother over to his house.”
“Me? Maybe he could do me a fucking favor and not invite them!”
A throat cleared behind him. No, no, no, no.
Yeah. Hugh. With Will, pale-faced, beside him.
“You must not have heard us,” Hugh said.
“Yeah, so, I’ll just leave you three to chat,” Adam mumbled, brushing past. “Don’t break Jer, okay? I know he’s a douche, but he’s the only big brother we have.”
Jeremy forced himself to turn completely, so he was facing them. “Will—can I talk to you a minute?”
“We’re just grabbing a book.” Will turned into a different room, and Hugh followed. “I know it’s in one of the stacks on the dresser, hang on.”
“No hurry,” Hugh said. “I believe it’s black, though don’t hold me to that. I may well be thinking of a different book.”
“Yeah, no, I got it.” Will grabbed a book, but he was moving too quickly for Jeremy to read the title. “She couldn’t stop reading it, so it’s probably pretty good.”
Hugh flipped a few pages, then closed it. “Unfortunate that it wasn’t published until after Mom died. It sounds like something she would have enjoyed.”
Both of them looked over at Jeremy, who suddenly felt like he was intruding. “Uh, so, Will, you think maybe—”
“No. You want to talk, talk, Jer.”
“You can’t even talk to me now?”
“I could. I’m choosing not to. Plus, Hugh’s analysis will be better if he gets to watch you try to walk back being an asshole.”
Will jumped up to sit on the dresser Hugh was leaning against. “You can trust Hugh, Jer. I trust him with everything. You ever had a friend you could trust with every last one of your secrets? You ever know anyone who never fucking bat an eyelash, no matter what you said, no matter how you felt?”
“Look,” Jeremy said, to Hugh this time, since Will was being a punk. “I don’t have a beef with you. I don’t get this—thing—but I don’t care, so it’s not a big deal. I’m just trying to talk to my brother here.”
“I don’t have any siblings. Only child. It must be hard having twins for brothers, Jeremy.”
“You’re always excluded. There’s a connection you can never touch, right? I know that’s how Adam feels. Will doesn’t feel it quite as keenly, or so it seems to me.”
Will elbowed him. “You talked to Adam?”
“You know I’m always trying to understand. I find it intriguing how different your perspectives are, given how closely the two of you have chosen to live as adults.”
“Huh. He thinks—say it again?”
Hugh smiled. “You should talk to him if you want to hear what he thinks. I was actually asking Jeremy’s feelings, Will.”
“Ha. Right. Sure.” Will shrugged at him. “So, Jer? Does it suck having me and Ads all these years?”
“How would I know? I don’t remember before you guys, so I guess it must be okay.” He shifted awkwardly, aware that Will was punishing him, irritated and resentful and also, yeah, okay, he’d been pretty out of line at the fucking bachelor party. “Listen, Will—I thought you were straight, okay? I didn’t know you weren’t—that. I was a jerk. I’m sorry.”
Will blinked at him, not moving.
“What? Jesus. What the fuck do you want from me?”
“I don’t know. But I guess that wasn’t it. I thought I was straight, too, Jer. For years.”
What the fuck? “Uh…okay.”
“I think the bitch of it was how fucking betrayed you looked, like you had a right to my life when clearly even after almost a year, it makes you uncomfortable. I wasn’t hiding from you that I liked guys, Jer.” One of Will’s legs swung sideways, hitting Hugh. “I’m kinky. I’ve always been kinky, ever since I can remember. That’s what I was hiding. And it’s none of your business, so you don’t get to look betrayed this time.”
Kinky. Wait, kinky? Like, with sex? Oh my god. Oh my fucking god. Wait, like kinky with…with these guys? Somehow gay-kinky seemed way more kinky than straight-kinky, though Frankie would laugh her ass off if he admitted he thought that.
Jeremy rallied his words. “So you’re kinky for banging gay guys? Cool, Will. Whatever.”
“No, Jer. Kinky is the strongest part of my attraction to people, way stronger than what gender they are.”
Brain. Hurts. What does that even mean? Shit. Maybe Singer could explain all this shit in smaller words later.
“Will,” Hugh murmured.
“You think I’m bein’ harsh?”
“I think your sadistic streak does not run to twisting your brother’s heart.”
“Yeah,” Will said after a minute. “True. Anyway, Jer, I’m kinky, and poly, and you can google that shit if you need help understanding it, but this is who I am. And when I have parties, I invite Hugh and Truman. If you don’t want to come, that’d be kind of a bummer, but there’s no way I don’t invite the boyfriends because you’re uncomfortable.”
“I’m not a homophobe,” Jeremy said, looking at Will and trying to ignore Hugh in his peripheral vision.
“Good for you, big brother.”
“Dammit, Will—it’s fine. I’ll work it out. And if I don’t, Frankie and Singer will make me, so whatever.” He grimaced. “Shit. Unless all this shit is—I’m supposed to keep my mouth shut about it.”
“I’d’ve talked to Singer if I wanted someone to keep their mouth shut, Jer.”
“You did, though. He said you already talked to him, like years ago. About a shirt, or something?”
The first unguarded expression he’d ever seen on Hugh’s face: eyebrows raised, eyes bright. “When was this?”
“Aw, fuck me.” But Will was smiling, almost grinning. “Shit, yeah. I did do that. Uh, the night I came over for dinner and Nick and Lucy crashed?”
“You hired a fashion consultant?”
Grinning for real now. And blushing. “I spent, like, literally an hour trying to pick out a shirt to wear. Then I thought, you know, Ads and Jer don’t notice dick about their date’s shirts. Oh my god, Hugh. This sounds so dumb.”
Which was kind of bossy, but Will’s grin didn’t falter.
“It wasn’t a fashion consult, it was more like, Hey, straight guys are oblivious, is it stupid to wear a decent shirt to go out with a gay guy?”
“Not all straight guys are oblivious, Will.”
“I know. But at the time—you know.”
“I do. So you called your cousin to ask him if it was worth wearing your green shirt?”
Will punched him in the arm. “Okay, shut up. Dammit. And also, Singer’s an honorary Derrie, not a cousin exactly.” Will shot a glance at Jeremy. “Which is probably why I figured he’d keep his mouth shut, but apparently he didn’t. That’s weird.”
“He didn’t say anything until today. I think he was—I don’t know. He said if I was gonna be pissed that it was a secret you liked dudes, I had to be pissed at him, too.”
“Singer’s the man. I gotta go rag him about this now. Ha, green shirt.”
“Mm, I do like that shirt. I’m glad you called your honorary cousin that night, Will.”
Singer had said it was years ago, but both of them still remembered the shirt. Not that Jeremy needed more proof that this wasn’t casual, but if he did—there it was.
He fought the urge to sigh and stepped forward. “So your husband told me I should at least wait until you actually piss me off to be pissed at you.” He reached out to shake hands. “I’m Jeremy. Good to meet you.”
“Hugh. And you as well. I’ve heard so much about you.” The guy shook. “You spoke to Truman?”
“And Tru was all like, ‘Hey, I get bein’ pissed at Hugh, but you don’t even have a decent reason yet.’ Ha!”
“Yeah. He said you guys are sticking around, so—”
They looked at each other.
“That’s funny, Mr Reynolds.”
“Is it? Surely you didn’t think we were going somewhere. Still less now that you’re so close.”
“Guess not. Still.”
“No conditions, Will. As you know.”
“Yeah, but—damn. Fucking Tru with all the feelings. Anyway.”
“Yes, Will, anyway.” Hugh held up the book. “Shall we go downstairs? I know there was something Molly wanted me to take note of, but I’ll need her to find it, I think.”
Not my business, not my business, don’t wanna know— Jeremy heard himself say, “So she doesn’t have a problem with this? I don’t get that part.”
“Moll? Uh, if I told Moll that I wanted us to have some kind of locked-down exclusivity thing, she’d dump me. Moll doesn’t get off on that.”
It was like the words came through, but didn’t make sense. “You mean—you mean, she—she’s got boyfriends, too?”
Will laughed. “Oh, hell no. God. That’s the last thing Moll would ever want. Moll likes going to bars and flirting with, like, everyone.”
“Flirting with, though, that’s not—” Why am I still talking? Stop. Don’t wanna know.
“Well, she can do more than flirt, if she feels like it, but she says she’s getting old. What, you thought I was going out with the boyfriends and Moll was sitting here pining away for me? Ha, Hugh. Picture that.”
“No, I don’t see Molly as a piner.”
Jeremy officially gave up. He backed out of the room and they followed. It wasn’t homophobic to wonder if the gay guy behind him on the stairs was checking out his ass, right? Or wait—was it? Or maybe just self-absorbed.
He was relieved as hell when Frankie dragged him into another argument, this one over the merits of the past Raiders season. He was a little wary when he discovered he was arguing with Truman, but then again, at least it meant he had something he could talk to the guy about.
* * *
Apologizing to Molly was easier than having a casual conversation with Hugh.
“So I was an ass. Sorry.”
“Yeah, you were. Accepted.”
Then she went to do something somewhere with someone who wasn’t him. Thank god.
* * *
The Derries (and honorary Derries) hung out until nearly everyone else had left, late into the night.
“I’m not sure I like this,” Singer said. “Usually I’m fifty feet away from my bed when everyone’s going home. I’ve never had to…commute after a gathering before.”
“Ha, thank god for Singer.” Frankie, who’d had more than a few beers, propped herself on Singer’s shoulder, addressing Truman. “No one else in this family is willing to host shit. Though the house is nice. Singer, your apartment in the Castro fucking sucked for gatherings.”
“And we had to the pay bridge toll,” Jake added.
Singer smiled at him. “Among other disadvantages.”
Frankie laughed. “Like not having a nice handy Jake in your bed! Ha, Singer!”
“That’s like the fifth time you’ve ‘Frances’ed me today! Not fair, Singer Thurman! Anyway, I hope your folks don’t decide they want the house back anytime soon. It’s fucking convenient.”
“Right, so, time to cut Frank off,” Jeremy said. “Jesus, Frank. You’re a fucking insensitive drunk.”
“What? What’d I say?”
Singer waved a hand in forgiveness, because that’s the kind of dude Singer was. “I believe you just implied that you hoped Lisa stayed in her cult indefinitely so you could continue living in the house.”
“Wha? I said—huh?”
“My sister,” Singer explained to Truman. “Has spent the last three years in a cult-like community in Southern California. My parents moved closer, trying to get her out. Or something. But that’s why the three of us live in my parents’ home.”
“Ah,” Truman said. “She’s not interested in leaving her community?”
“It’s so hard to tell, between what I hear from our parents, and what they hear from other family members who also have loved ones inside.”
The penny dropped and Frankie’s face fell. “Oh, shit. No, shit, I didn’t mean that, like at all. Shit, man. I mean, I kind of hate Lisa, but still. I didn’t mean that.”
“I know, Frankie. But I think Jeremy’s right, it’s past time to take our leave.”
“I’ll find the twins,” Jeremy said. Not that they were lost. The twins, their girlfriends, Hugh, and Ally were all out on the back patio. Dancing.
“Oh my god, Hugh can dance.” Adam laughed, delighted, and let Hugh spin him. “Since when can you dance?”
“I can only dance under certain circumstances. Most of them not in public.”
“Hugh dances fine as long as you’re not trying to get him to move in a club,” Molly called. She was dancing with Ally, but they weren’t doing anything fancy, anything with spinning. And Ally was blushing, but playing along.
“For the record, Beccs is a better dancer than Hugh,” Will said, breathlessly, trying to keep up with whatever Beccs was doing.
“Oh, that’s a challenge. Adam, I’m afraid I have to release you to Rebecca’s arms.”
“Yeah, go fuck up Willie. Good times. Beccs, listen, I don’t think I can keep—”
“You scared, Ads?”
“You suck so much.”
Jeremy lingered just inside the house and watched Hugh take Will’s hands.
“I can’t believe you just threw down the gauntlet.”
“Really? I take it you’re leading?”
“Will, Will, Will. If you lead, I’ll follow.”
Molly and Adam laughed.
“Aw, shut up, jerk. I don’t, uh—”
Hugh arranged their arms. “You were leading a minute ago with Rebecca. Go ahead, Will.”
“Shit. Um. We doing fancy shit right now?”
“How would I know? You’re in charge.”
“Oh my god!” Ads said, laughing again. “This is hilarious. Hugh’s a fucking comedian.”
After a second, Will began to move, and Hugh moved with him.
“Shit. Shit, shit, shit.” He kept mumbling, but they danced, keeping tune to whatever was on the little boom box in the corner. “Oh my god, Nick’s gonna fucking kill me when he hears about this.”
“Worry more about Truman. You know he’s gonna demand you dance with him, now.”
“We should never do this again.”
“We should do it far more often,” Hugh countered. “Dip me, Willie.”
Molly and Ally stopped dancing to watch, both of them laughing as Will tried to dip Hugh, almost tumbling both of them to the ground.
“Commit, Will!” Beccs called. “Do it again, but commit!”
Hugh pulled him in closer. “Commit, Will.”
“You fucking suck.” But as Jeremy watched, they did it again, and on the right note Will dipped Hugh backwards. This time he completed the motion, and no one stumbled.
Molly, Ally, and Adam clapped.
“Shut up, you guys.” Will looked at Hugh, who looked right back at him. “So.”
“That was interesting.”
“You’re still a jerk.”
And they kissed, shit, just standing there in the fucking backyard, with Molly, like, right there. But she only smiled and went back to dancing, on her own this time, closing her eyes.
Busted. He looked over at Jake. Jake was looking out, where they were all still laughing and talking and dancing except Will and Hugh, not kissing now, but close enough to kiss.
“Huh.” Jakey looked over. “Come on.”
They went out, and Hugh let go of Will, but didn’t step away.
“We’re taking off,” Jake said. “Thanks for having us, you guys.”
“Anytime.” Ads gave both of them hugs.
“Hey, you know, you can come out to Thurman House.” Jake waved an arm, to indicate all of them. “No bridge toll, at least.”
“Thanks, Jakey.” Will also gave them hugs, and at least that was better. At least Will could look at him now. That was worth the discomfort of the day.
“Anyway, Willie and I will come out Saturday morning, for the cemetery.”
They shook hands with everyone else, and Hugh looked amused and distant, though Jeremy was beginning to think that was his normal look, not his specifically-Jeremy look.
Final goodbyes, and hugs, and handshakes. They settled Frankie in the far back seat of the SUV (crossover, whatever) and started home. Jeremy wanted to talk, wanted to ask questions, mostly wanted Singer to tell him he wasn’t a homophobe again, because right now he wasn’t quite sure.
Finally he settled on, “So Will and those guys. That’s a thing. That’s not—they aren’t just friends with benefits.”
“Nor fuck buddies,” Singer agreed. “No.”
“Will said he’s kinky. He said it like that trumps gay or straight.”
Singer caught his eye in the mirror, but didn’t say anything.
“Are, uh, gay guys more freaky in bed than straight guys? Is that a homophobic thing to say?”
“It’s a question, not a statement, so no.”
Okay, so, this was the part where Singer ignored him. All right. That worked.
“I don’t think it’s that gay people are more freaky. I think it’s that we don’t have a script.”
“Being kinky might have been easier on Will, if he was gay. Because the standard is to actually discuss sex, at least on a very basic level of what you’re into. I—understand the way he’s using the word kinky. I understand what he’s saying.”
“He’s saying he’ll fuck dudes if they’re into what he’s into?”
Singer glanced sideways at Jake, who was staring straight ahead, pretending he wasn’t listening. “I’m not sure that’s exactly it, though I haven’t have that conversation with him. I’m thinking more along the lines of emotional fulfillment. You derive emotional fulfillment from women, I derive it from men; maybe what Will’s saying is he derives it from a dynamic, and Hugh and Truman are two people he’s found that dynamic with.”
“Shit. Okay. Yeah, I—okay.”
“That was definitely interesting,” Singer said.
“Will you go with us to the cemetery, Jeremy?”
“I guess so. I mean, it’s a pretty fucked up thing to think about. Twenty-four is young. And—coming out in a letter no one even reads until your dead is—” Something. Something fucked.
“That’s why I’d like to go to the cemetery.”
Singer was agnostic, not Catholic, but Jeremy was pretty sure they were rubbing off on him. “Give Uncle Reid our respects, yeah.”
They drove in silence most of the rest of the way home before Jake spoke. Jeremy was dozing with his eyes closed, lulled by car noises and the sounds of Frankie snoring behind him.
“Thank you. For putting up with my insane family.”
Jeremy kept his eyes closed.
“My family, too. Or didn’t you get the bulletin?”
“Yeah. Singer—you think I’m cold?”
“Because Will kissed the guy, right there, in front of people.”
“I don’t think you’re cold, Jacob. I think you’re private.”
Jake seemed to think about that for a long moment. “And if I wanted to be less private? I don’t mean, like, exhibitionist. I just mean—maybe casual. Like other people.”
“I’m happy to oblige.”
“Okay. Maybe. I gotta think about it.”
“Sure. Of course.”
They didn’t say anything else until they were waving goodbye at Jeremy’s apartment.
What a long fucking day. He trudged up the steps and unlocked the door, surprised to find the lights on. “Maria?”
“Hey, you! It’s fucking late, boy, where the hell have you been?”
He kissed her, thinking about casual affection and emotional fulfillment. “Just wait until I tell you. Your cousin’s still a fucking bitch, by the way.”
“Yeah, she is. Lucy’s made being a bitch into an art form. I’ve got food on, you hungry?”
He wasn’t. But he watched her navigate his kitchen and made a decision. “So, you ever think about us maybe moving in together?”
Maria laughed. “Oh my god, Jeremy! Seriously? That’s how you bring it up?”
“Did I do it wrong?”
She kissed him, hard, holding a sauce-dripping wooden spoon off to the side. “Yeah, I think about moving in together. You want to?”
“Yeah. I mean, shit, you think we can just—do it? Just like that?”
“I’m pretty sure we can, Jeremy.” She kissed him again and backed off. “Anyway, we’ll deal with details later. No rush. You should hang out with the twins more often if this is the mood you’re in when you get home. Tell me everything, by the way. I bet it was a riot. You do okay with Hugh?”
“Yeah. Yeah, I think so. Anyway, let me think about where the hell to start.”
He had a beer while Maria ate dinner, and yeah, he could get used to this. He could get used to being a little more serious about this, and admitting it to himself.
Who the hell knew Willie was gonna be a goddamn role model? Ha.