This scene takes place during The Boyfriends Tie the Knot.
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“Can we just stop? Please. My head is pounding.”
“We can’t stop, we don’t agree yet!”
Truman looked at Ian. “I apologize. We are, apparently, that couple.”
One hand rubbed absently at his shoulder. “You know, the couple who saves all their arguments for therapy instead of building skills that might actually improve their relationship.”
“We are not that couple. At least, I am not that couple. Truman—”
“We aren’t going to agree, Hugh. Face it, take three deep breaths, and then we’ll keep going.”
“But I—” Hugh paused, frowning, clearly unsettled.
Oh, this was interesting. He’d never seen Hugh back off, not even when it was he and Lucy fighting. (Ian, with a vivid recollection of the time Lucy made her Civics teacher cry, rarely fought with her on any but religious grounds, preferring to keep the home turf advantage on his end.)
Right now, though, Hugh and Truman looked at each other. Silently.
He’d sneaked the pre-marital counseling in under the guise of “let’s have a few meetings to determine the shape you want the ceremony to take,” and told Lucy to leak the Catholic Church’s position on the sacrament of marriage. Hugh called less that twenty-four hours later.
“Ian, we’re therapists.”
“Lucy mentioned that.”
“No, I mean we’re—we’re both good. I think we have this handled. At least, anything you’re likely to cover in a generic prescribed cookie cutter fashion.”
“Excellent. Then I won’t bring snacks, because our sessions will go so quickly. Unless you’d rather take the actual class with our other couples?”
That was a bluff. Ian wasn’t a fool. He wouldn’t invite this mixed-faith, non-monogamous, homosexual couple to work with the other parish couples getting married, even if he would marry them quietly outside the church, collar firmly left at home. (Though with this Pope, who knew, marrying two committed gay men on the DL—after flogging them through their Pre-Cana obligations—might actually be a wink, nudge, look the other way offense.)
“You don’t even marry gay men. Are we going to talk about birth control? Gender roles?”
“The official position on birth control is don’t use it, so you’re covered. Are you about to explain to me that you and your fiancé don’t have genders?”
“It’s a long drive.”
“It’s Richmond, Hugh. You can get here in fifteen minutes on the freeway. It just feels farther away because of all the brown people. Remember to lock your doors and drive as close to the center of the street as possible.”
“Have you always been this funny?”
“I’m like a fine wine, Hugh. I mature with age.”
Hugh had huffed a soft laugh over the line, then asked when they should plan to make the trek.
They’d covered spirituality (Hugh, an atheist; Truman a patient agnostic), conflict resolution (though they’d definitely keep going back to that one), finances, and their fascinating relationship with a young man who didn’t live locally (Hugh had told that story mostly, with an air of defensive bravado Ian thought betrayed how serious he was about it). The sacrament demanded exclusivity, but he couldn’t really say they weren’t exclusive. When he’d asked if they ever planned to share each other with anyone aside from this Will person, Truman had looked appalled and Hugh had merely dismissed the idea.
“All right,” Hugh said, jolting Ian back to the present. “Why don’t you want to keep talking about this?”
“Because, love. It’s done. I’d rather we not kiss at all than do what we’re doing right now.”
“We have to kiss. It’s—it’s tradition. Or it’s—since when have you had a problem with kissing me?”
“You know what my problem is, and you’re pigheadedly ignoring it.”
“Oh, good,” Ian said. “I’m glad someone knows what the problem is, because I have literally no idea.”
Hugh turned on him with narrow eyes. “How often do people get hung up on the ceremony planning aspect of this?”
“All the time.”
“Well? I want to kiss Truman as if we’re grown ups who, not coincidentally, also have sex. He wants a fucking peck on the cheek!” He sat back and sucked in a breath. “I don’t—Truman, you don’t even like them. They almost scheduled a trip to Hawaii in order to get out of even attending our wedding. How can you possibly let them determine this?”
“Let’s talk about families of origin,” Ian said. “Hugh, go first.”
“I don’t have a family of origin. They’re dead.”
Lucy had fallen in love with Hugh’s mother, wanted to become her, wanted to step into her skin, and talk like her, and think like her. Ian, freshly accepted to seminary for graduate studies, had taken Jazzy aside to ask why the hell Lucy was talking like a white girl. “Oh, some lady took her in, but the lady’s got cancer and shit. It’s fucked up.”
He looked at the lady’s son and let the room go very still.
“Mom, obviously, would not have a problem with us kissing. Mom wouldn’t have a problem with us getting married in our underwear.”
“Well. Not in front of your grandparents, surely.”
“No. The grandparents—honestly, I don’t know. They were certainly conservative, but I’d like to think that if they were still alive, they would support us. I think they would have. And if they didn’t, Mom would have made them.”
Truman reached out and Hugh accepted his hand. “I’m going to have a brief fantasy that Cordelia is not only still alive, but also has the magical power to make people behave.”
“Dueling powers; Lucy would follow her around undoing all her good work.”
“Tell me a little more about your family of origin, Truman. Your sister lives in town?”
“She’s in the process of moving to Marin, though we aren’t sure how long that will last. My brother and his family are still in Iowa, along with my parents.”
“They aren’t comfortable with your wedding?” Ian asked, sensing there was something just beneath the surface of “mild case of homophobic squeamishness.”
“Well, they’d never say that.”
“That’s exactly my point. They’d never say anything, and we make them uncomfortable anyway, so why on earth wouldn’t we kiss?”
“I’m not saying I don’t want us to kiss. I’m saying I want it to be decorous, Hugh, not—”
“Since when have I ever—”
“When you decide to commit to a public display, Mr Reynolds, you do go to every extreme you can think of, and then you hire someone to ferret out new extremes.”
Hugh pulled up short. “Is this about money?”
“Because I’m paying for the wedding and you’re paying for the honeymoon. That’s what we agreed on.”
Truman grimaced. “Yes. I realize. And I have no problem with the arrangement.”
“You have a problem with something and it’s—it’s hard for me to believe this is what it comes down to, Truman. It’s really hard for me to accept that you just don’t want to kiss me in front of people. I’m not talking about ripping off your clothes and fucking you in front of everyone, I’m talking about kissing.”
“I—” Truman paused, shifting uncomfortably in his chair. “It’s a little bit about the money.”
Ah, good. We’re getting somewhere. Ian gave Hugh a very short time to respond, and when he didn’t, Ian turned his chair to grab three beers out of the mini fridge. He opened all of them on the edge of the desk and handed them across.
“Thank you,” Hugh said dryly. “Do we appear to be in need of alcohol?”
“A break, not booze, but this is what I keep here. Do me a favor and don’t crack the drunken priest jokes.” He let a beat pass, until he was certain both of them were paying attention, then added, “Once, years ago, I thought about quitting drinking. I think I mostly have it under control, but when I start finding excuses to come in to the office because I know it’s where the beer is, I stop buying it for a little while.” He raised the bottle. “Cheers.”
Hugh raised his bottle. “I’m good for a referral if you ever need one.”
Truman sipped his beer mechanically, then set it down. “It’s not just that you have more money, Hugh. You have—more money than I can even imagine in one place. I don’t—I can’t exactly—sometimes, yes, it bothers me. That I can’t write a check for our wedding the way you can. That I can’t find the most expensive beach house in, I think, the Northern Hemisphere, and decide to rent it for our honeymoon.”
“I said I’d pay for that. I know it’s extravagant, I just—”
“I don’t want you to pay for it, Hugh.”
Hugh sat forward in his chair. “Tell me what I can do. I’m not sure what we’re talking about, or how it relates to kissing at the ceremony, but I want to understand.”
“You always want to understand. Not everything can be explained, my betrothed. Not everything makes sense.”
“You not wanting to kiss me definitely does not make sense.”
Ian cleared his throat. “Money often equals power, even when we know it shouldn’t. Couples with significant income imbalances find sometimes their discomfort manifests in other ways.”
“It’s not income. Truman, it’s not—” Hugh turned to Ian. “I inherited this money. From my grandparents and my mother. And I didn’t have access to it until I was thirty, it’s not as if I’m that much more comfortable with it than Truman is. If I even am, which is debatable.”
“Our wedding costs more than some houses, Hugh. Decent houses. In the Bay Area.”
“Because we have the money—”
“You have the money.”
“But I consider it—”
Ian held up his hand. “Is the money in your name?”
“Yes, but that’s a technicality. And my accountant is difficult.”
Ian held his gaze. “Why does it make you uncomfortable to refer to it as your money, Hugh?”
“Because it’s not. Because it isn’t my money any more than it is yours. Or Truman’s. I didn’t earn it, I did nothing to receive it except—survive. It’s like getting a reward for not dying. Yes, I’m spending it on the wedding. Our wedding is the first thing I’ve ever spent it on that didn’t make me feel sick. Well, this and Friday night dinner.”
“I didn’t know the grandparents take us to Friday night dinner.”
“They don’t always. It depends on my mood.”
This moment was the moment Ian waited for in all of his couples. The moment they exposed something new and looked at it together, instead of as individuals who happen to be standing beside each other.
“I like the way you kiss me in private, Hugh. That’s part of our relationship, and part of our—part of what you and I build together. Sometimes it’s part of what we build with Will. But it’s not something I’m willing to share with my parents. You’re right; I don’t really like them that much. This is the family I want. You. Will. Ally. Jase. Lucy and her boys. Nick. Your people, my people, the ones we’d want to be with us at our wedding. Face it, Hugh, we invited my parents and Brian because we had to, and they’re coming because they have to. They don’t get to see who I really am. And when you kiss me the way you’re describing, I can’t possibly be anyone else.”
“I like who you really are,” Hugh murmured.
“But I hid myself from them for years. Do you understand at all?”
“Fear of someone seeing me without my many layers of self-protection? Yes, I think I can relate. Theoretically.”
They offered one another small, wounded smiles, expressions of battles fought and only sometimes won.
“But I’m still not making the connection to money.”
“I told you, not everything makes sense.”
“You should tell me. I’m a fantastic therapist, Truman. Maybe I can help.”
Truman shook his head. “There is nothing I can say that will satisfy you. This is one of those times when I need you to drop it, Hugh.”
“I—fine. All right.”
“Power,” Ian said, and finished his beer. “Right?”
“It’s not that clear-cut.”
Ian raised one eyebrow.
“When he kisses me like that, I lose track of everything else. Yes, it feels like he—consumes me. That’s what I like about this—about he and I. I like that he can do that without it taking away from me. Does that—am I explaining this at all?” Talking directly to Ian, not to Hugh, who was sure as hell listening to every word he said.
“Perfectly.” Ian spread his hands across the desk. “I understand why that might be too much for the ceremony. I also understand why connecting to someone so deeply brings up things you can’t easily intellectualize.”
“Tell me how to stop it, then, Ian. Please. His money is only a problem when I make it one.”
“There are other things, that do not disturb Hugh and therefore do not disturb you.”
“You’re saying I can blame him?”
Ian shrugged. “Surely there are other things that were unfamiliar to you before this relationship, which do not disturb you now. At least in part because Hugh didn’t wait for five years before mentioning them.”
There. Truman smiled. “I see what you’re doing. Maybe if he fashioned stacks of hundred dollar bills into restraints somehow, I’d be more comfortable with them?”
“If he did? Wouldn’t he then have the power twice over?”
“I told you it’s not that clear-cut. It’s not power or powerless. It’s—he can do things for us that I can’t. That’s what bothers me. He can take advantage of more opportunities for us, do more things. Our wedding will be more like a fairy tale than I ever dreamed, because Hugh can make that happen. And I have nothing like that, nothing that compares.”
“Surely you’re more generous with your forgiveness than I’ve ever been with my money, Truman. To say nothing of your openness. Stop talking to Ian! Please. Please, Truman.”
Truman held out both hands. “I know this is dumb. I’m working on it. I have no need to continue processing my—ridiculous vintage discomfort with the fact that you can provide better for our family than I can.”
“Fine. But I’m not done processing it yet, and I think my processing will include buying us lavish, expensive things. Can I buy a car for you? What if we bought a car for Will?”
“I mean it. Or maybe I should find a way to reserve him a sleeper compartment for his trips up. Do you think Eddie would like something fancy for the kitchen? Luce is easy, I’ll just find a custom-made cane for her. I have no idea about Leo. Or Jason. I think Ally would rather have a gift card somewhere so she can pretend to be rich.”
Hugh reached out and pressed a finger against Truman’s lips, and Ian smiled, to himself, aware he was now invisible.
“We’ll choose gifts later. But I’m putting the money in your name, and the next time we’re at Friday night dinner, you can spend their money, Truman. Same place it would have been coming from anyway, but you can sign for it.”
“Don’t be absurd, I don’t need—”
“I need. I need to share this with you.”
Truman shook his head. “John will never let you do it.”
“I’m doing it anyway. I can be persuasive, when I set my mind to it.”
“I don’t want to spend your family money, Hugh.”
“Truman, it’s the thing I got for living when they didn’t. We should spend it. We should spend every fucking penny of it.” He leaned in and kissed his fiancé. “How was that? Will that do for the ceremony?”
“Yes,” Truman murmured, voice very close to tears. “That will do.”
“Good. Decision made. Ian, do we get some kind of prize?”
“You get to go home. I’ll see you in a couple of weeks.”
They kissed again, and this time both of them hugged him as he walked them out.
“That was grueling and horrific, thanks,” Hugh said.
“Thank you, Ian.” Truman shook his head. “This is probably good for us, professionally. We have couples in therapy, but neither of us has ever done therapy as a couple.”
“Glad to help.”
He waved as they walked out to the parking lot, arm-in-arm, breaths steaming in the dark.