Author: S.H. Marr PM
Kellan wants to say a few very important words to a very important person in his life. It's the day to celebrate freedom of speech, after all. Slash.Rated: Fiction T - English - Romance/Hurt/Comfort - Words: 3,380 - Reviews: 4 - Favs: 7 - Published: 07-03-11 - Status: Complete - id: 2929398
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
"Trist?" Kellan called down the stairs. He didn't get a response, so it appeared he'd have to go down to pull Tristan away from whatever he was painting this time.
If it was another nude of Kellan, Tristan was sleeping on the couch for the next few days, holiday or not. The younger man had to be doing just to get a reaction from his boyfriend; none of them were ever put up for sale or even on display. Not that Kellan would have let him in any case.
Of course, Tristan insisted he was merely appreciating Kellan's beauty, but Kellan replied that Tristan could appreciate that perfectly well in their bed.
He headed down to the basement where Tristan had set up a makeshift studio in favor of driving across town. In this case, "make-shift studio" merely meant a tarp on the carpeting where the dark-haired man had set up an easel and canvas and left all of his paints on the floor. Sure enough, Tristan was bent over his newest canvas intently, and Kellan was mildly relieved to see that it didn't feature himself this time but instead a dark, twisted mermaid.
"Oi, Tristan. It's a holiday, you're not supposed to be working. It's also 3:00. Connor wants us at his barbeque thing in an hour."
Tristan started and dropped the piece of cardboard he'd mixed paints on. "Oh, damn. I totally forgot. Sorry," he said, turning to Kellan sheepishly. "I'll go take shower."
"It's fine, Trist. I figured you'd forgotten. That's why I came to get you." Tristan nodded and headed up the stairs. "Remember to put on red, white, and blue!"
Tristan grumbled something unintelligible back and Kellan set to tidying up the area and making sure Tristan's paints wouldn't dry out while they were gone for the day. As soon as he was done, he headed back upstairs to pack blankets and snacks to take with to the fireworks later. Sure, it was July, but it still got chilly down at the lake and he couldn't think of a valid excuse not to cuddle up in a blanket with Tristan. Besides, the prices for food down there were absolutely ridiculous.
Tristan reappeared just as Kellan was tucking the last of the snacks into his backpack, dressed in blue cut-off shorts and a white t-shirt deliberately painted with red. Kellan looked up at his boyfriend as he entered the living room. "Well, at least you didn't dye your hair this time."
"I was sexy with red hair."
Kellan snorted. "Right. Well, come on. It's not a short walk."
Tristan picked up the backpack from Kellan and slung it over his right shoulder. "No swimming. Don't you dare get that paint washed off yet."
Kellan examined his paint-covered arms. Tristan had gotten bored that morning and decided to use his skin as a canvas, covering him in American flags and multi-colored fireworks to mark the occasion. The designs were already cracking. "I look ridiculous. You're lucky I'm going out in public like this. What are my coworkers going to say?"
"Absolutely nothing. School's out of session for the summer. You can do as you please."
Kellan grimaced. "What are my students going to say?"
Tristan considered this as he slung his free arm around Kellan's shoulders and led him out the door. "That their teacher is awesome to go out in public like that, and that his boyfriend is an amazing painter." Kellan rolled his eyes. "Why is your brother even having a Fourth of July party, anyway? He's never had one before."
Kellan shrugged. "Ask him," he suggested.
"I think I will. Did you remember your medication?"
The blonde rolled his eyes and nodded. "In the bag, Tristan."
"Good," Tristan replied, letting his arm slide off of Kellan's shoulders and reaching for the shorter man's hand. "Are your parents going to be there?"
"No, why would they drive four hours just for Independence Day?" Kellan asked curiously.
Tristan's shoulders relaxed and he let out a breath Kellan hadn't realized he'd been holding at all. "Good."
Kellan eyed him carefully. "Trist, I'm sure Connor didn't invite anyone who's going to make us feel uncomfortable if he wants us there so badly."
Tristan frowned slightly. "What about Christmas and Easter?" he muttered sullenly.
Kellan sighed and smiled at him good-naturedly. It wasn't like he didn't understand why Tristan didn't like his parents. "Those are family holidays, Trist. This isn't."
"Then why are we going to Connor's thing?"
"Because we like them and they aren't going to complain that we're in a relationship. Tristan, stop sulking about Mom and Da, okay? It'll be fine. You're just being difficult."
Tristan sighed and straightened out of his slouch. "I guess. Sorry."
Kellan leaned over and kissed his cheek. "You worry too much."
"Says the man with panic attacks."
Kellan scowled. "I'm working on that!"
Tristan smiled and squeezed his hand. "I know. You haven't had one in months."
The shorter blonde shrugged. "Only because you've been there to keep me calm."
"Oh, really?" Tristan asked with a skeptically raised eyebrow. "Because I recall being the cause of more than one."
Kellan flushed. "Yeah, but that was…" he trailed off, unable to finish. He wanted to. He wanted to tell Tristan that had only been because he'd been insecure back then. That he'd been scared of loving Tristan so much. But he felt his throat shut down, and the words just weren't going to make it out.
His companion didn't seem to care. Tristan merely kissed him gently on the forehead and said, "Eh, I guess it doesn't matter. You haven't been having them lately anyway."
Kellan nodded and forced a smile. Tristan looked at him curiously for a moment, then turned back to the sidewalk.
"You made it!" Connor cried as he flung himself into Kellan's arms.
Kellan looked over his brother for a long moment, then turned to the woman sitting on a lawn chair nearby. "Did you let him bring alcohol, Roxie?"
"He smuggled it out of the house when I wasn't looking," the red head replied, eyeing her husband.
"'S a holiday, Kel! It's jus' whiskey."
Kellan laughed and pushed his older brother off of him. "All right, all right. I may as well give in now." Connor grabbed his wrist and dragged him over to a table a few feet distant while Tristan sighed and collapsed next to Roxie.
"Why are they drinking at four in the afternoon?" he asked.
"Con wants to be sobered up in time for the fireworks," the woman explained.
"We can hear you," Kellan commented.
Tristan watched the two brothers as they slid into the benches at the picnic table and started pouring themselves shot glasses. "Great," he said.
Roxie laughed. "So how have you two been, Tristan?" she asked.
"We've been fine. I have a showing on Friday, so I've been mostly working on that. And yourselves?"
"Good," she replied. "I finally got Con to take down that horrific crucifix."
Tristan shuddered. "Thank God."
"Well, I think he mostly had it up for their parents' sake, you know?" she replied confidingly. "It wasn't that hard. Besides, he and Kellan have no idea how to decorate. Where would they be without us artistic types?"
Tristan laughed. "You have a point," he admitted. "Their house was pretty ugly when I first met them."
"Well, excuse me for not being an interior decorator," Connor complained.
"I'm not an interior decorator, either. And Tristan's a painter."
"Our parents visited! And they gave the damn thing to me. Now I can blame its absence on my sweet wife."
"So," Roxie asked, ignoring her husband entirely. "Where's that showing of yours?"
The two of them passed a reasonably enjoyable time chatting until Connor turned on a CD player. Tristan eyed it nervously. "Please tell me they aren't going to do karaoke. That's embarrassing enough when it's on a road trip where no one else can hear."
"Oh come on, have you ever known them to pass on it?"
"First time for everything, right?" Kellan glanced over at Tristan with a scowl, which Tristan returned with a sheepish grin. "Hon, you can't sing sober."
"I am not drunk. I've only had two shots, Trist."
Tristan stuck his tongue out at his boyfriend. "Fine. Humiliate yourself in public," he teased.
Kellan rolled his eyes and joined his brother.
Tristan turned to Roxie after a few moments. "Am I the only one who finds it odd that a gay man and his married, Catholic brother are singing a song called 'Bad Girlfriend'?"
The red head started laughing. Kellan threw his microphone at Tristan's head and hit him in the stomach.
"I'mma tell him today, Con."
"You're gonna tell who what now?" Connor asked, lying back on the soft green grass after the brothers had tired their voices out.
Kellan kicked him. "Tell Tristan how I feel 'bout him!"
Connor blinked at him in confusion. "I thought he already knew you loved him," he pointed out.
The blonde scowled and looked up at the cloudless sky. "Yeah, but I gotta tell him!" he insisted.
"You never told him you loved him?" Connor asked, as incredulous as he could be with half a bottle of whiskey in his body.
"Well," Kellan replied hesitantly. "I did. But in the five years I've known him and the two we've been together, I have only told him twice, and both times I was hysterical. So it really doesn't count. Like when Mom and Da first met him, I was upset and kind of freaking out and…and stuff." He'd had less to drink than his brother, but Tristan certainly wouldn't have trusted him behind a wheel at the moment.
Connor pondered this drunkenly. "I didn't know tha'," he said.
Kellan nodded firmly. "'S true."
"Mom and Da don't run your life anymore, Kel, you know?"
"Yeah, I know, but I still gotta deal with 'em, right? If they ran my life, I'd be a priest. They figured if I had to like guys, then I should go into a profession where I couldn't do anythin' about it." Kellan laid his head in his knees.
"I remember that. But…wait a minna…does telling him when you're drunk count?"
"No. But I'll be sober later, right?"
"So, wha's supposed to be so different about tonight, then?"
"I'ono," Kellan admitted. But it would be.
"Hey! Kellan! Nice tattoos!" The blond turned to look in the direction his name was coming from and his eyes landed on a familiar dark-haired teenager.
"Go 'way, Skylar!" he protested cheerfully.
"No! You have to come say hi to everybody! You already refused to stay the whole time. You have to at least stop by!"
Kellan turned away. "No," he insisted.
"Aw, com'on! Are alcohol and adult company really that much better than hanging out with a bunch of angsty, misunderstood teenagers?" Skylar called teasingly.
"I dunno! I have to spend too much time with the likes of the angsty, misunderstood teenagers!" Kellan replied with a grin.
Skylar grinned back. "Bring Tristan! A lot of the members haven't met him yet!"
"Hey, Tristan can hear you two yelling!" Tristan interrupted, still sitting a good thirty feet or so away.
Skylar grinned and waved at him before disappearing again. Kellan stood up and offered his hand out to Tristan. "Shall we?" Tristan rolled his eyes, stood, and took Kellan's hand in his own.
Kellan and Tristan managed to extract themselves from the club get together after a half hour, during which Kellan had to introduce Tristan many more times than he'd expected. In fact, a surprising number of students hadn't even realized their advisor was even interested in males, which puzzled both of them. Kellan had never been particularly subtle about his sexuality, much to his parents' dismay.
They headed back to grab dinner from Connor's "shindig" (as Connor insisted on calling it) and pick up their things. The fireworks were going to start in an hour and s half and they wanted to find a good spot to settle down and watch.
"Well, that was fun," Kellan said as they left.
Tristan shrugged. "The only kid there I know is Skylar. And I guess I've met Ethan a few times when Sky's dragged him to church."
Kellan frowned. "Sorry…"
Tristan turned and looked at him curiously. "What for?" he asked.
"For…dragging you along, I guess." The teacher leaned his head against Tristan's shoulder and inhaled.
Tristan kissed the top of his head lightly. "Don't be. They're good kids and all. As long as I get you to myself for a good part of the evening, I don't care."
Kellan smiled. "Of course." He paused for a moment. "Trist, they aren't that much younger than you. How would you have felt if I thought of you as a kid when you were my student?"
Tristan frowned as he thought about that. "You were younger then."
"Still." Tristan had been 18 already when they'd met, but Skylar was 18, now, too, as were quite a few of the graduated seniors at the party.
Tristan sighed. "Well, what am I supposed to call them?"
"People? Students?" Kellan suggested.
"Okay, fine," Tristan relented.
Kellan grinned. "Besides, if they were 'kids', then it would only make sense that a mature adult such as yourself calls all of his former teachers by their first names."
"I call you by your first name."
"Trist, even Skylar calls me by my first name. You don't call Samuel by his first name, and he's told you to plenty of times."
Tristan thought about that. "Okay, but Skylar's known you for years, and Mr. Al—Samuel—is over twice my age! And I had him for four years! And I never thought of you as 'Mr. Stanton'. You were always Kellan to me," he said.
Kellan shook his head. "And that caused no end of problems…" he muttered.
"It turned out okay. Stop complaining about it."
Kellan gave him a look. "I can't help remembering that last study session we had and imagining what would have happened if Connor hadn't come home when he did."
Tristan sighed and brushed a stray lock of dark hair out of his face. "Are you never going to get over that, Kellan? I'd never break your heart like those other losers had, and I'm not your student anymore. It's okay to love me."
Kellan forced a smile. "I know," he whispered.
"So stop beating yourself up over it. It's not pleasant to watch."
After stealing a few hot dogs (with celery salt, naturally) and sodas, and waving good-bye to Connor, Roxie, and a few of Connor's friends, Tristan grabbed the backpack Kellan had packed earlier that day and they went to stake out a spot before all of the good ones were taken.
"There are too many trees in this town," Kellan complained. "Everywhere we look there's one that's going to be blocking our view."
Tristan smiled and ruffled his hair. "Stop worrying. Look, if we sit down over there, there won't be anything in our way."
Kellan and Tristan made their way over and sat down. Opening the backpack, Kellan took out one of the thick blankets and spread it on the ground. "The fireworks start in about 45 minutes."
"And?" Tristan asked, pulling Kellan close and draping the second blanket over them.
Kellan leaned against him, "Just thought I'd mention."
They sat in silence for a while, enjoying each other's company and people watching. Kellan found himself watching Tristan more than anyone else and wishing that he hadn't sobered up yet. After a few minutes of Kellan's intent gaze, Tristan turned to look at him and smiled, quirking an eyebrow up curiously.
Kellan felt his pale cheeks redden. "Tristan?"
"Hm?" Tristan asked, studying his face calmly, waiting ever patiently. Kellan had no idea where the patience his boyfriend usually displayed for him had come from. The man certainly hadn't had any when he was a senior in high school. Apparently, the Art Institute in Chicago had a good effect on him.
"I—" Kellan began, trying to figure out how to start. It was normal to just tell someone you were dating you loved them. Why couldn't he do it? He did love Tristan. Knowing that scared him, but he couldn't turn back now. Hell, he didn't even want to.
"Never mind," Kellan said finally, exhaling harshly. Dammit, why wasn't his voice cooperating?
Tristan frowned at him slightly as he watched Kellan's expression carefully. "Uh, okay…"
Kellan turned his gaze back to the rapidly darkening sky. It would be dark enough for the fireworks any minute now. "Tristan?" he said after a few minutes to regain his resolve.
"Why…why do you even want to be with me?"
Tristan stared at him as if he'd just grown another head. "Because I love you."
"But why?" Kellan asked with a sigh.
Tristan shrugged and let one arm slip around Kellan's waist, holding him tightly. "I just do, Kellan. I can't explain it. Being with you makes me happy. So I want to be with you. What else do I need for a reason?"
Kellan let out a laugh that was more of a breath and smiled. He hadn't been asking for a laundry list of things to love about himself. Somehow, Tristan always knew what he wanted. "Most people would want a whole lot more, sweetheart."
"Yeah, well," Tristan said. He dug into the backpack, looking for something to snack on and pulled out a bag of barbeque potato chips. "Here." Kellan took them from his hand.
"Keep looking. There's something in there I think you'll like." Tristan watched him suspiciously for a moment before returning to the bag and rummaging through it with more enthusiasm.
He eventually pulled out a small plastic container and opened it. "You made me meringue cookies?" he asked excitedly. Kellan smiled in response. Tristan leaned over and kissed him. "Thank you. I love you, too."
Kellan started. "What? But…I didn't say…"
Tristan rolled his eyes and took a cookie out. "Sure you did. You spent hours this morning making complicated cookies from scratch for no reason other than that I happen to like them. What else do you need to say?"
Tristan sighed. "I know you don't say it very often. You don't have to. Things like this," he said, holding up a cookie, "say it much better, anyway."
Kellan frowned at him. "Then why do you say it?"
Tristan shrugged. "I don't need to hear it. You do."
Kellan didn't reply and looked down at his feet. He heard the first few fireworks explode, and looked back up at the sky. After a few moments, he finally managed, "But I want to tell you."
Tristan leaned over, pulled Kellan against him, and kissed him gently, only waiting for a moment to slid his tongue in. He tasted like sugar, meringue, and himself. Kellan couldn't help melting against him and kissing back. He closed his eyes on the fireworks in the sky and focused on the ones going off inside him instead.
Tristan finally pulled away and smiled at him. "Don't worry so much, Kel."
Kellan nodded and managed a genuine smile. He leaned back and rested his head against Tristan's chest and returned his gaze to the sky.
He would say it. One day.