3 hours before the wedding
"You hate me, don't you?" Teverence shifted on the short pedestal he was standing on, cringing at the swish and flutter of heavy materials that accompanied it.
"I don't hate you. Not for eternity, not for the moment." A sharp tug on the material and a swat to his side were all he earned for his efforts. "Stand still, sweetie."
Teverence forced his feet to stop moving with the greatest of efforts. Someone, somewhere was having a really good laugh over this. "I did something to piss you off, though. And this is how you're repaying me, isn't it."
"Watch your language, Vere." The woman at his feet looked up, smiling around the pins in her mouth until she saw how Teverence was standing, then it faded into a scowl. "And unfold you arms, right now; you'll wrinkle the material if you do that!"
"Damn shame," Teverence muttered, rolling his eyes, but he complied nonetheless, dropping his arms to hang stiffly at his sides. He curled his fingers in the hopes of avoiding touching the gauzy, frilly stuff flowing all around him. God this was uncomfortable, and he could only imagine how it looked. Because he refused to look in the mirror to see for himself. His imagination was doing wonders enough for him already.
"Thank you, sweetie. Now stand straight, I can't get this hem right if you're slouching."
He did his best to glare at the woman kneeling by his feet, for all the good it did him. She was already bent over her chore again, passing a needle steadily through the gossamer material, completely ignoring him. So the glare proved largely ineffective against her, and given the obscene amounts of spray and gel and whatever else she put in her hair every morning, the glare likely had just bounced right back into him. So great, now he'd just managed to send himself an evil death glare.
"You lied to me."
"What on earth are you talking about?"
"When you called me, saying you needed my help, sounding desperate and lost."
"I didn't lie, Vere. I misstated the truth. I did need help, I just didn't provide the proper coordinating details." Teverence snorted. That was an understatement. He had thought she needed help programming the VCR or… something technical like that.
This? This wasn't help. This was torture. She had called him over so she could torture him.
His arm itched. He tried to scratch it, rubbing through the course material of the sleeves. That only aggravated it more, so he started to push the sleeve back, glad that he hadn't put those ridiculous loops around his thumbs. A quick, sharp smack stopped him. "Don't touch it; you'll wrinkle it." The woman spoke through clenched teeth, somehow managing that despite the pins still pressed between her lips.
"It itches." He spoke through his own clenched teeth, feeling the thread of his patience stretching beyond endurance.
"Suffer. I'm still working."
He shifted on his feet again, which earned him another smack. "Please. It chafes." And he did not want to get into the particulars of that.
"Then stop moving." She didn't bother looking up from her work that time.
"I've been standing here for an hour now!"
"And it will probably be another hour yet if you don't stop moving and whining and distracting me." She gave him one of those smug, patronizing, 'you know I'm right' looks—complete with sigh and smile—that only a mother could achieve.
"Can I please just take this thing off?"
"Not until I'm finished." She gave him an exasperated look. "Honestly, why are you so fidgety?"
Teverence rolled his eyes to the ceiling. "Mom… I'm in a wedding dress in the middle of your sewing room. Why wouldn't I be 'fidgety'?"
His mother smiled sweetly, "I'm certain I don't know, sweetie. I thought this would be right up your ally."
He could feel his cheeks burning, and he was almost certain that thud was his jaw hitting the floor. "I like boys, Mom; I don't dress like girls."
"I know, Vere," she rolled her eyes, "I was just teasing."
"Great. And now that you're done, can I please take this vile thing off?"
"The dress isn't part of the joke."
"Then what is it a part of?"
"It's your Aunt Kelley's. I needed a model so I could finish it."
"Wouldn't one of those," he glared at the various mannequins lining the wall behind them, "have been more appropriate?"
"Those won't work, sweetie. They don't have the right shape."
Teverence narrowed his eyes, one brow tilting up. "Who is supposed to be more insulted by that statement?" He started to cross his arms, but realized what he was doing and stopped halfway; he was tired of being smacked.
"No one, dear. It's simply the truth. Kelley is very… not feminine."
"You're not even working on the bodice anymore. Com'n, Mom. Do you really need me to hem the skirt?"
"Believe it or not, Teverence, I do. Now stop talking. I'll finish that much faster if you aren't distracting me."
"Aunt Kelley had damned well better appreciate my sacrifice."
"Language, Vere. And if she knew anything about it, I'm certain she would."
Teverence snorted. As if Aunt Kelley wouldn't find out about it. Hell, absurd as it sounded, she'd probably manage to fish out pictures of this sordid affair. And didn't that thought just make him twitch. He wanted out of the pile of fluff. Now.
"I still say I'm being punished for something I'm not even aware I did."
"Stop being dramatic, Vere. You're not that special."
"I'm your son. How much more special can that get?"
"I do this to all my models."
"Your other models aren't living beings."
"They still suffer the same abuse."
"Ha! See?!" Teverence crowed triumphantly. "You admit it's both abuse and suffering."
"That still doesn't make you the special victim, sweetie."
"I can feel it. That puts me miles above the others."
His mother twitched her nose and lifted her eyebrow. "So now you're proud of it?"
"I… no…" Teverence paused, shoulders dropping as he noted that—once again—his mother had done… whatever it was she did when they argued. Damnit. "No. No, I'm itchy and scratchy and tired and my feet hurt."
"That's called whiney, sweetie. You're whiney."
"I am not whiney. I am perfectly within my rights here." He almost stamped his foot, just for the effect of it, but then he really would lose the argument. And he was not letting her turn his complaints around on him again.
Well… not immediately anyway.
"How much longer is this going to take? Because Vanessa's wedding is at 3, and I'll need time to drop by the apartment and change."
His mother sent him a chastising look. "It didn't occur to you to bring your things with you?"
"It didn't occur to me that I'd be forced to model a dress for six hours."
"You're so dramatic, Vere." She rolled her eyes and bent back over the skirt, saying quietly, "It's only been five."
"Five is one less than six, so the point stands."
"It's still one less, sweetie. Now stop distracting me. Else you won't be making it to the wedding at all."
Teverence narrowed his eyes. "You can't keep me here."
"Can't I?" She cast him a smug smile. "I'm your mother, Vere. I can do whatever I want."
He was saved punishment for whatever retort he might have come up with by the loud chime of the doorbell. His mother straightened up, pulling pins from her mouth and stabbing them back into the little cushion at her wrist, brow furrowed in a way that Teverence clearly recognized as feigned confusion. He glowered. "More help?"
She sent him an impatient glare of her own. "Hush, Vere. All this attitude is not healthy." She stood up and brushed non-existent dust from her skirt. "Stay there, sweetie, I'll be right back."
"Ok, you can't talk to me because that's distracting, but by god, you can answer the door—which forces you to walk away from the skirt you're hemming."
"The logic isn't lost on me, sweetie." She waved her hands at him to be quiet as she opened the door to step into the hallway.
In an act of defiance she would never know about—because he liked breathing, thanks—Teverence crossed his arms and glared at the door she had just exited through, foot tapping out an impatient, erratic rhythm.
It wasn't even a minute before she came back in, "—won't take but a minute…" trailing her as she bustled over to an armoire in the back of the room and began digging through it.
Teverence might have been inspired to straighten his arms and stop slouching had the man who followed her into the room not taken him completely aback. Tall, dark, lean, and so ruggedly handsome it ought to be a sin. Teverence gaped, the glare he had been reserving for his mother transferring itself to this man.
"What are you doing here?"
Travis, for his part, looked just as surprised to see him. Although, Teverence thought that might have had more to do with the dress. After all, this was his mother's house. It wasn't as though he was really a stranger here.
Of course, neither was Travis. Hell, a week ago they probably would have been here together. Laughing about the dress while Travis helped her do the work on it.
But he really did not feel like laughing. And to give Travis his do, neither did he. In fact, Travis looked just as startled and trapped as he felt. Which meant, there was only one person responsible for this.
He turned the glare back to his mother, who was still buried inside the armoire digging around aimlessly. "What is he doing here?"
"What?" She stopped, poking her head around the open door, blinking almost dazedly for a few seconds. "I'm sorry, sweetie, I have to find that Chinese silk wrap for Travis. I hadn't realized she'd be wanting it so soon. Amuse yourselves for a few minutes, won't you?"
"The wrap is folded and wrapped in tissue, safe inside the white box over there on your desk. No one's supposed to be stopping by to get it because you're supposed to be shipping it out tomorrow." Teverence took a deep breath to keep from shouting. "What. Is he doing here?"
"Don't point, Vere. It's rude. And he works for me, remember? At the dress shop." She turned and started rummaging in the armoire again. "He's running errands for me."
"The shop's closed today, Mom."
She gave him a disgruntled glare, "Did I say it was for the shop."
"Not this time, no."
"Teverence! Travis is running an errand for me. Aren't you, dear?"
Travis did the smart thing by staying quiet, for which Teverence was eternally grateful. He had already had the argument with Travis. He did not think he could make it through another.
"Mom… you have two seconds to explain yourself, or I am walking out that door. What. Is. He. Doing. Here."
"Sweetie… please." She lost the scowl and chastising tone, replacing it with a worried frown and pleading whisper, "Trust your mother, Vere. Just hear him out."
Teverence closed his eyes, head dropping and shoulders sinking. "I don't need to hear him out, Mom. I've heard it all already." He stepped down from the pedestal, "I have to go. I… need to get ready for Vanessa's wedding."
"Teverence Gold Smith!" She was back to being mad now. Teverence rolled his eyes. "Get back here, young man, I am not finished with you."
"No, ma'am. I think you've made enough of a fool of me for one day."
Travis was still more or less in the doorway, but Teverence would be damned if he was going to let that stop him. He would jump out the window if need be. They locked gazes for but a second, Travis's ocean blue eyes flickering from guilt to apology to… something else in that small space of time. Teverence cursed himself for even noticing and reminded himself he didn't care. "Excuse me."
Travis shifted out of his way, and he left the room and then the house, thankful—once again—that they had let him go. He probably would have had a breakdown if he had had to stay there any longer. And he preferred to do that in the quiet privacy of his apartment.
His apartment, for better or worse, was only a few blocks from his mother's house. Which meant he usually walked. And though the anger and upset made the walk seem interminably long, it also helped him to work off a lot of the strain and tension he had built up in those few minutes in his mother's sewing room. It allowed him to vent and use up all that frustrated energy, so that by the time he actually entered his apartment and sagged against the door, he simply felt tired. Maybe a little drained.
It was nothing a couple hours' nap and coffee could not fix though. And then he could get up refreshed and more or less recovered for Vanessa's wedding.
He tossed his keys on the little table beside the door and pulled away from the door, senses steering him towards the kitchen—and caffeine. Something caught on his feet, and he was sent tumbling to the floor, trailed by the sound of fabric ripping.
Two things occurred to him as he fought through the pile of fluff to find air again: 1) he had just walked four blocks in Aunt Kelley's wedding dress, and 2) his mother was going to have his head for tearing it.
And honest to god, he did not know which of those two ranked higher on the list.
At the reception
Mason and Vanessa were truly a stunning couple. He in his stark black tuxedo, she in her frost-white gown, sparkling and shimmering under the bright lights of the dance floor. Their excitement and cheer were contagious, and it was nigh impossible not to notice anything other than the image they presented.
Though for Travis, there was at least one person who could capture his undivided attention. Treading softly, weaving his way carefully through the tables and chairs so as not to disturb those sitting or standing around them, watching the newly-wedded couple as they danced and laughed and sent every into fits "of the vapors" with the utter romance of the moment.
Teverence was at the far end, near the stage, watching the proceedings along with everyone else. But Travis could see the tension in his posture, read the longing and sadness in the way he held his head. Travis felt a painful twist in his chest. He had caused this. He had messed up.
Travis came up behind Teverence, speaking only when there were a few feet between them. "Tev," he said it softly, again not wishing to disturb the music or those around them.
Teverence's back stiffened, posture becoming tighter than it already was, and turned around. "What are you doing here?"
"I wanted to see you. To talk to you."
"Did my mother send you here?" Teverence sneered.
"You're mother has nothing to do with this."
"So that thing this afternoon was just a fluke?"
"Yes—no—I mean…" Travis released a weary sigh; he was screwing it up all over again. "I had no idea you would be there, Tev. I thought we were going to discuss…"
"Good job, by the way, bringing my mother into it."
"Don't me mad at her, Tev. She was only trying to help."
"Because she didn't want the bad tension between her son and prize pupil ruining her business."
"It's not like that. I spoke to her before—." Travis clenched his fist at his side and took a deep breath. Lord, he had made such a mess of this. "She knew something you didn't. I blew it; she wanted to help me make it right. She might have gone about it the wrong way, but her heart was in the right place." He shook his head and cleared his throat. "I had no idea you were there until I walked through that door."
"Fine. You bear no guilt. Are we done now?" Teverence started to walk away.
Travis caught him by the arm and kept him from going too far. Teverence, thankfully, did not try to struggle. "Wait, Tev. Would you just… hear me out? I screwed up, ok."
"Yeah, you forgot in your haste to be rid of me that I am still Lacy Smith's son. You might be too good for me now, but you still have to suffer my presence." Teverence pulled his arm from Travis's grasp and started to walk away again. "No worries, though, ok. I'll stay away from the shop. Believe it or not, I have even less a desire than you to be reminded how inferior I am."
Travis caught him up just as easily, once again thankful when Teverence did not put up a fuss to get loose. "That's not what I meant." Travis brought a hand up to Teverence's face, running his fingers across his cheeks, brushing a couple of stray hairs back from his forehead. Then he dropped to kneel before Teverence, grasping his left hand tightly in his grasp. "When I said I was ready to move on, I meant I was ready to move on with you. I've reached the point in my life where I know I'll never meet anyone more perfect than you. That's what I meant to say." He reached inside his jacket and pulled it out, opening it to reveal a silver band studded alternately with diamonds and sapphires. "And this—Teverence Gold Smith, will you marry me?"
Teverence reached out a shaky hand, fingers dusty lightly over the ring and the box before turning wide, disbelieving eyes on Travis. When he collapsed, Travis was there to catch him, holding him close as Teverence wrapped his arms around his neck and squeezed almost to the point of suffocation.
"I love you, Travis."
"I love you, too, Tev."
Travis breathed a sigh of relief. Relaxed and at peace now he had done it. Glad to have had a second chance. Tev was his life and world, and all he had ever wanted was to let him know that. His eyes opened, and he found his gaze immediately drawn to the ring, still in its box in his hand. Just as Tev had always wanted. Something small. Something silver. Something blue.