McCormick was staring at him. Ezra shifted uncomfortably and tried to remember if he had wiped his face after eating waffles. Probably not.
McCormick cleared his throat and laced his fingers together on his lap. He looked uncomfortable without his desk. There was a starling amount of paper covering the coffee table between them but it came up to their shins. The truth stone was resting on the corner, currently dull.
"You were kidnapped by your ex-husband?" McCormick finally asked.
Ezra started, surprised by the suddenness of the question. He didn't know why though. He nodded, glanced at the yellow stone and said, "Yes," aloud.
"Can you tell me what happened?"
"I-" Ezra hunched into himself and then straightened up with a wince. "I went outside to smoke. Rick was there and he hit me and knocked me unconscious, and when I woke up, he was there and threatened me. He drugged me, I don't know when. I tried to leave but he caught me and beat me and my husbands rescued me and took me back here."
McCormick winced. "I'm very sorry to hear that. Have you been to the hospital?"
"No. Rick- He's still my emergency contact. I haven't gotten around to changing it. Ginger came over though."
McCormick glanced through the file on his lap. "The healer," he clarified. "Is that enough?"
Ezra nodded. "Yes. Better than a hospital. I've been hurt this badly before and usually it takes a lot longer to heal. I'm feeling almost fine."
McCormick glanced at him, eyes landing on the yellowing bruises on his face and arms.
"I'm very sorry, Mr. Fidel, but I have to ask a few questions to clarify. When you say Rick was outside when you went out to smoke, were you expecting him?"
"Were you planning on going with him?"
"Did you want to?"
"Do I look like I wanted to?" Ezra snapped.
McCormick shook his head. "No, you don't, Mr. Fidel. But your history implies you might."
Ezra turned his eyes to the floor, avoiding his uncompromising stare. "He hit me this time because I told him I couldn't be with him unless he was sober. For good."
"I would assume that was implied in you marrying others."
Ezra looked down at his toes. "He didn't take it that way."
"So it was kidnap? There was nothing consensual about it?"
McCormick nodded and looked back down at his files, flipping through a few of them. "You're meeting, a few days after your current marriage, with your ex-husband, can you explain that?"
Ezra flushed darkly. "No," he said softly.
McCormick looked up sharply. "Mr. Fidel, I'm afraid I must insist."
Ezra looked down at his lap, staring at his clenched fists. "Why are you doing this?" he asked softly. "These are good men. They don't deserve to be split up and forced from here. I'm not even human so this investigation shouldn't have happened."
"Your history would cause an investigation anyway."
"My history?" Ezra asked dully.
"Of abuse, Mr. Fidel."
"They're not abusing me," Ezra snapped. "They don't abuse each other either! There is no abuse in their- in this relationship!"
"Did you believe your ex was abusing you?"
"I left, didn't I?"
"Yes," McCormick agreed. "You did. Several times."
"Most abuse victims take seven tries to leave their abuser."
"I'm aware. However, it took you several tries and you still put yourself in intimate situations with Mr. Galyn."
McCormick tapped his pen against the files on his lap. Ezra forced himself to look up to find McCormick's eyes on him. He met them as steadily as he could. "I… I'm done with Rick. It-" His throat closed against the words, but the yellow stone stayed dull and Ezra realized he really meant it. He really couldn't try anymore, not with Rick. He dropped his eyes.
Silence stretched between them for more than a minute before McCormick sighed. "Do you know how many human-fae relationships are abusive?"
"Not very many," Ezra guessed sourly.
"Twenty-two percent." McCormick dropped the fact and let it stew in silence for another minute. "Most of the physical abuse isn't on the part of the fae either."
Ezra looked up in surprise.
McCormick nodded at him. "Fae get caught in bad relationships and just don't leave. Their culture teaches them to not ask for help and that humans are weaker. That they are being hurt by a human? They frequently see it as something to be ashamed of. Sometimes, it starts out in such a way that they really aren't being physically hurt by it. A human punching a faerie is not going to do much damage."
"I haven't hurt any of them!"
McCormick glanced at the truth stone and made a note before nodding. "Good to hear. The mental and emotional abuse however is frequently doled out by the faerie and they frequently don't realize it. That same feeling of superiority that causes them to take beatings means they often don't view their human partners as equal, leading to neglect, adultery, and verbal abuse. Physical abuse is easy to ferret out if you know the questions to ask, but the rest is hard to ascertain."
Ezra sighed. "They aren't cruel men."
"They frequently don't mean to, they're just parroting back what they've always heard."
"They haven't… I mean…." Ezra trailed off. They weren't abusive. But they had called him slut. And they had hurt him those few times. "No one in this house is abusive," he said instead.
McCormick flipped through his notes. "Holly called you a slut frequently, to your face, up past the point you were married, Mr. Fidel."
Ezra stayed silent.
"You asked why I was doing this."
He nodded, staring at him again.
McCormick waved to the truth stone. "That works on me too, Mr. Fidel. I'm not out to break up any truly loving relationships. The HFRC has a certain reputation, but I try my best not to be a bigot. But I do want to get abuse victims out of their situations. I don't care if marriages are simply scams to get people over the border as long as no one is being hurt or even if it's a tax scam. I won't break up marriages that are about to end in divorce unless in the case of the abuse, because of the provisions that come with the absolving of marriages under the HFRC. Some of the people I work with do not feel the same way but twenty-two percent is a very high number for abuse."
"You don't care if a marriage is unhappy?" Ezra asked tentatively.
"I do, but I will not suggest a marriage be broken up simply because of that. For cases where one or both parties are unhappy, I officially recommend the couple stay together. After all the sessions, I simply give a yes or no to the marriage staying intact as I will not violate privacy. Except in abuse cases, I always check yes. The yes is not a guarantee that the marriage will not be dissolved by the HFRC but saying no is a guarantee it will be.
"I do, however, have a provision for marriages that seem to be very unhappy or at risk of abuse and that is counseling with a therapist of my choice for at least a year, sometimes longer, except in the case of a divorce. At the beginning of every session, the therapist asks about any abuse under truth spell and if the answer is yes, he or she contacts me and I will open up another investigation. After that, it is a normal session, but they can also contact me if they see something wrong and I can open up another investigation. Once again, because of the patient's right to privilege, the therapist can't tell me exactly what is wrong, but the second investigation usually reveals it. This is all unofficial, but I can say I found something in my notes or am rethinking my decision. It's not common but a second investigation is always followed up on. If the person or people I told to go to therapy fail to go for the allotted time or fail to continue to go after the therapist I choose recommends it, I open up another investigation."
The truth stone stayed dull throughout. McCormick saw him staring at it. "Mr. Fidel, you and your husbands have nothing to worry about from me. I think your marriage is quite solid." The stone flared up and Ezra paled.
McCormick folded his hands in his lap. "In truth, I feel you are all trying to hide something big and while your husbands treat each other very well, there is some quite questionable behavior towards you and right now, I am leaning towards absolving the marriage. There have been repeated instances of name calling and physical injury."
Ezra stared at his hands before coming to a decision. "You can't break them up. You have to… They aren't abusing me. It's not abuse and I think I- I can explain it, but you can't break them up."
"I can't promise that without knowing there was no abuse."
Ezra looked down. "There… There has been but just towards me."
McCormick frowned at him. "You count, Mr. Fidel."
Ezra ran a hand through his hair. "I… When they did it, I don't think it counted as spousal abuse."
Ezra stared down at his lap, twisting his hands together for a moment. "I met them a month ago. A little less," he blurted out. "Me and Dimitri got married when completely hammered, like, a few hours after meeting. He took me here the next day to fill out the divorce papers but… uh, things happened."
"Rylan strangled you."
Ezra flushed. "He told you?"
"A neighbor saw. He sidestepped the question about hurting any of his husbands."
"That's why. But… why, why didn't you push?"
"Because a neighbor saw. If you hadn't told me, I would have called you both back for an additional meeting to hammer it out. The first meeting is supposed to be somewhat general. The second session is much more an interrogation for any questions that weren't answered. Getting straight answers generally takes too long."
Ezra glanced up at him. "You- You haven't said you're going to break them up yet."
McCormick stared at him for a moment, meeting his eyes. "I'm reserving judgment until I hear how you got from a drunk one night stand to so vehemently defending their marriage. Please include all instances of anything that could be construed as abuse. I will ask at the end if you left anything out."
Ezra flushed and dropped his eyes. "Right." He cleared his throat. "Dimitri… Dimitri stopped me from leaving right after he told me we were married. I was just going to leave it be and disappear but he carried me back to the room we had gotten. I just went with him after that. He… was bigger than me and it was important to him and I just didn't care enough to put effort into objecting."
He picked at his cuticle absently.
"He took me here and I met everyone but Giovanni and Malachi. There was name calling and… some physical injuries from Rylan. Holly pulled my hair a little. But, um…" He sighed, not really able to excuse it definitively. "I was a stranger, even though we were technically married."
"Rylan and Dimitri were not together at this point though."
"Yeah, but Rylan's protective of his husbands and angry and I didn't exactly try to diffuse the situation."
"I'm not saying he had a right to hurt me," Ezra said softly. "The only person I've ever thought had that right was Rick. But everyone was pretty high strung and that... It's understandable." He hesitated for a moment before continuing. "I- I saw Rylan almost hit Dimitri. Almost right after that. But he didn't and Dimitri… Dimitri said Rylan wasn't usually like that. He said they usually ignore each other."
McCormick hummed and looked through his notes before nodding. "Dimitri has, in fact, never been physically attacked by any of his husbands," he confirmed. "He did mention Rylan once almost hit him."
Ezra smiled slightly. "I'm surprised. He said he didn't talk much. He's shy," he added quickly. "Not as obviously as Giovanni, but he totally is and he compensates by being formal."
McCormick hummed again and made a mark, this time in Dimitri's file. "Good to know. What happened after this?"
Ezra sighed. "We left. He put me up in a hotel and stayed for awhile, mostly drunk. I- I think they were having a rough patch when Dimitri met me. All of them. Malachi got Dimitri from the hotel room and I left to get drunk and had an attack. I went-"
"A Selicitus attack?"
"Yeah. I went back to the hotel room-
"Aren't you supposed to stay in the hospital when that happens?"
"Rick gets called though. Rylan was waiting at the hotel room and he…. Hurt me again before leaving. I went out and got drunk again and had a seizure and woke up to Rick. All of my- my husbands came in shortly and Rylan got in a fight with Rick. I went home with them after I was feeling a little better and…" He trailed off and heaved a sigh. "Rylan told me I had to stay. Like had to." He really wasn't painting Rylan in a good light; he had been a jerk for a while. "But Holly and Dimitri both insisted I could leave so I did and Rick was waiting for me. I slept with him and then left for the night and was heading back to the hospital but he found me and beat me and I ended up in the hospital again."
"This time you needed… brain surgery and had a stroke?"
Ezra nodded. "They- they all- visited me. I actually… kind of started to like Leo and… well, most of them. They weren't being mean and they were pretty… Not nice, but interesting. Rick visited again so I left as soon as the doctor said I could with Malachi and Rylan. Malachi was really careful with me. It was nice," he said softly.
He cleared his throat. "When I was back there? That's when Leo started…" He blushed. "Leo started kissing me and generally acting like…. Like he actually liked me. And Dimitri was still really sweet. They told me at the investigation then. Dimitri did. I said I would help. A lot of them were… good together. I thought that even then when I had pretty much only seen everyone at their worst.
"I slept a lot and was by myself in the room a lot. They- I met Ginger for the first time. After I was feeling a lot better and I- I hit on Leo and he shoved me and I hit my head. Not bad or anything and he was really sorry."
Ezra let out a frustrated noise. "I told him I wanted to pay him back for the healer- which was a total joke by the way because I didn't think I owed them jackshit at that point. Apparently, there was a thing with Giovanni and it pressed a button and it was automatic."
McCormick paused. "Leo had felt he owed Giovanni when they first had a relationship."
"Yeah. There was still name calling through all of this by the way. From Holly and Rylan."
"Yeah…" Ezra muttered. "I… I kept recovering. Mostly. Getting to know the other men too. Um, I met Giovanni. Holly was, um. Odd. A little perverted. He pulled my nipple ring pretty hard."
One of McCormick's eyebrows shot up and his gaze dropped to Ezra's chest for a moment. "Okay."
"Holly took me shopping and was basically a dick the entire time, but a sarcastic one, which I like, and he's attractive, and…" He flushed, realizing he was trying to justify his choices to someone. Again. He had thought he had outgrown this yeas ago. "We had sex. I basically had sex with everyone for awhile. Not, like, my husbands, he corrected, but before them I… had a lot of sex," he finished lamely. "So yeah. Holly was a little nicer after because he hadn't slept with anyone he wasn't married to since he got married. I got," he waved at his chest. "The other one pierced."
"Um… Dimitri and Rylan slept together. The next day Leo found out that I had slept with Holly and he was, he said he was jealous. He tugged on the…" he sighed. "He pulled the newly pierced nipple ring and then Malachi pulled him away and he pulled the nipple ring enough that it was bleeding again. They got me a healer and I slept with Leo that day. He was probably the sweetest through all of this. He really didn't mean to do more than annoy me a little bit.
"Um… let's see…. Oh yeah, he found out Rick had been abusive and told everyone else and they found out I had been addicted to blaze. Holly burnt my arms, not like, terribly, but it hurt and they called Ginger over again. Holly apologized and he said we would- we both would- take lessons after this. After the investigation as an apology. Him for a refresher course and me to, um, learn." He twisted a strand of hair between his fingers anxiously, staring up at McCormick and trying to read his face. He never ever wanted to play poker with him. "He- He thinks my father might be an incubus. It could, taking lessons that is, I think it might help with the Selicitus. I'm hoping at least."
He cleared his throat. "Um, none of them have hurt me since then. Not, besides, like…" he began correcting when the truth stone flashed. "When Rick had me, when they came and got me. Someone hit me with a door pretty hard, but they didn't know I was there. And it hurt when I was carried and just… in general. Until Ginger came."
"The next day."
Ezra swallowed and nodded. "I- I told them I was okay, that I didn't want a hospital. I… I made sure that my hair was covering my face and I was dressed and everything and it was dark."
"You had broken ribs."
Ezra nodded. "I knew that, but I've had cracked ribs before and a few hours doesn't make a difference."
He stared down at his lap, not wanting to see the creeping pity on McCormick's face. That wasn't the point of this. "I didn't want to deal with anyone else, Mr. McCormick. They might have… They hurt me a few times, and Rylan didn't stop calling me slut until the investigation started, and I'm not sure exactly when Holly did but it wasn't much before, but they're nice. I don't think Leo could do more than pinch anyone on purpose and I seriously doubt Dimitri could hurt a fly. Holly and Rylan are temperamental, but…" He trailed off and took a deep breath.
"Sorry, my last therapist told me not to excuse violence," he muttered. "They aren't like Rick. Rick was scary even when he was sober. I never got hit, but I- I think it was just because I went a- along with everything he said," Ezra said, stumbling over the words. "I- I didn't deserve to get hurt when they hurt me, but- I- I was a one night stand. The marriage was… incidental."
Ezra took a deep breath, trying to steady himself. It wasn't easy to talk about this, especially because he still wasn't sure. "Now what?"
"You said you were a one night stand. And now?"
Ezra sighed and leaned against the couch. "I don't know," he admitted. "Leo says he loves me. I- I like him. I like all of them."
"But not love."
"I-I don't know. I could l-love them though, I think."
"Are you planning on staying married to them?"
"Not if it means they'll be broken up."
McCormick sighed. "While I do not condone their behavior towards you, it does not seem to be grounds for absolving their marriage. As long as nothing else happens," he said sternly. "The last few injuries may have been accidental in their extent, but they were intending to hurt you or at least scare you. If you choose to stay married to them, I will require you to go to therapy for a time," he warned.
"So you aren't going to dissolve their marriage?"
"Not because of any of their actions regarding you. However, I still have questions. As I said, Rylan never answered if he had hurt any of his husbands and he wasn't the only one who avoided questions."
Ezra sighed in relief. He was pretty damn sure none of the men abused each other. Rylan and Dimitri clearly had the most volatile relationship and he didn't think either had hurt the other.
"But even if I think your relationship is safe, mine is not the only word that counts and most at the HFRC will take most any excuse to absolve a marriage of this kind. Your meeting with Mr. Galyn is hurting you."
Ezra tensed again. "Do- do they know I slept with him?"
"Yes. They also know Rylan attempted to strangle you the day after your marriage."
Ezra paled. "Oh god."
McCormick nodded. "Your meeting with Mr. Galyn can be excused; you are an abuse victim and that can affect your actions, especially so close to being remarried. You were panicking about it and scared it would go bad so you ran to something familiar where you knew what would happen."
Ezra looked away. "Not completely untrue," he said softly.
McCormick nodded. "I don't add comments when I say a marriage is safe and healthy, but there is a certain amount of leeway the HFRC is required to give. As for Rylan strangling you…" He sighed and leaned back. "You stated in your questionnaire that you'll try kinks out and Rylan has a very long list of kinks."
"Including asphyxiation and exhibitionism," Ezra said suddenly.
"Yes. I can sign off on the marriage. My coworkers know my feelings on abuse so that will be written off a sex thing. But Mr. Fidel," McCormick warned. "As it is, it looks like your marriage will survive, but any, and I mean any, more red flags pop up, they will not be excused. Your lucky damn near everyone we've found that has run into since you married them has believed you are all good with each other."
McCormick frowned and turned to go through his files.
"The nurse. At the hospital."
"Oh. Yes. But then, she seemed to think anyone who wasn't Mr. Galyn would be an improvement."
"We still have to question over three dozen people, Mr. Fidel. Including parents and family members in other realms. I suggest you and your husbands inform them of your marriage if you haven't and tell them you're happy. We can't truthspell them."
He gathered his papers together and then paused. "Ah. Did you lie on your questionnaire?"
"N- No," Ezra said, surprised by the sudden change in topic.
McCormick checked a box on the top paper. "I am required to ask. This is the only information they get from me. How did you and your husbands fill them out so successfully? Talking won't cover most of that."
Ezra scowled. "It's a stupid questionnaire."
"I'm aware which is why I'm asking."
Ezra stared down at his lap.
"I told you I don't care about much besides abuse."
"We… I'm not sure how they found out the questions but I was given a packet a lot like the ones we were given for the investigation and told to fill it out. We switched them all and memorized them."
McCormick snorted. "Smart." He gather up his papers in a neat stack and set them on the coffee table. "Good luck, Mr. Fidel. I will be the one telling you if your marriage survives so I'll see you again. Are any of your husbands not here at the moment?"
"They all are."
"Good. Please send Rylan in."
Ezra started to stand and let out a soft groan.
McCormick winced and stood. "Sit back down. I'll find him." He checked his watch. "Actually, I'll send your husbands in and we can meet in an hour. Please, feel free to stay there and lie down."
Ezra sighed and nodded, slowly readjusting himself until he was lying flat on his back as McCormick gathered his papers together and walked out.
Not even a minute later, Malachi flew in, looking anxious. "Hey, what happened?" He took in Ezra's prone form. "Do you want your painkillers?"
"No, I'm mostly just stiff," Ezra muttered. He sighed and cuddled down into the couch. "I told him."
"Told him what?"
Malachi froze and all the color drained from his face. "You did what?" he hissed.
Ezra shrugged. "Look, the truth thingy works on him too right? And he said he pretty much only cared about abuse. And also that with what he knew, he thought that our marriage was questionable at best because of the name-calling and… injuries," he finally said.
Malachi stared at him through narrowed eyes, fists clenched, breathing heavily. Ezra stared at the steady rise and fall of his chest, counting breaths as he sure Malachi was. He got to ten before speaking. "What happened?" he said, voice tight.
Ezra flinched slightly and started to sit up.
Malachi huffed out his breath sharply and reached forward to press him back down. "I'm not mad."
"Yes you are."
"Okay, fine, but I'm not going to hit you. I haven't yet, have I?"
Ezra sighed and forced himself to relax. "Look, Holly was calling me a slut and burned me and Rylan strangled me in less than a month. Being a one night stand makes that sound better than having been married properly, right? He's not going to say anything to anyone," he muttered.
Malachi sighed. "Let me go get the others."
He disappeared and a few minutes later, the rest of his husbands started trickling in. Leo kissed his cheek and then wiggled underneath him so his head was in his lap. Holly did the same with his feet, minus the kiss, but his fingers stroked along Ezra's calf in greeting.
Ezra waited until they had all come in and made themselves comfortable, even Giovanni and then told them what had happened. Holly's gentle stroking faltered only for a moment when Ezra mentioned him calling him slut, but it picked up again quickly and didn't falter again. It was a soothing counterpoint to Leo's almost vibrating tenseness.
The other men were equally tense and Ezra was on edge by the time he finished. Holly's stroking turned to soft massaging, fingers working into the muscles in his legs. "I think that helped," he said softly, before anyone else could say a word.
Ezra stared at him in surprise. He had been expecting Holly to object. He was nearly as protective as Rylan of his husbands, and certainly more temperamental.
Holly caught the glance and gave him a wry smile that looked everything but happy. His eyes were shiny. "Ezra, we haven't been treating you like a husband. It hasn't been good, much less looked good from an outside perspective. I don't want to be separated from my husbands and it sounds like what you did helped."
Leo relaxed under him and ran a hand through his hair. It almost felt like an apology. "I love you," he murmured.
Ezra smiled up at him and grasped his hand tightly. "They're going to call parents, family members not in Border Town." His smile slipped. "I have to call my mom. She doesn't know… anything."
Holly tensed and stared at him. "I, uh, called her. When we were looking for you. She knows you're married."
Ezra winced. "How'd she take that?" he asked softly.
Holly snorted. "She's a-" He cleared his throat. "She did not take it well. She seems to like Rick."
Ezra sighed and pressed his face to Leo's stomach. "She does."
Leo ran a hand over his shoulder, coming to rest gently on one of the bruises on his arm. Ezra shivered and pressed himself closer to Leo. "I'm glad I'm here," he murmured.
Leo smiled and hunched over to kiss his forehead.
"I should call my family," Malachi muttered and stood.
Holly lurched to his feet after him after carefully setting aside Ezra's feet. "I need to call my dad."
Dimitri glanced at Rylan. "We should…"
Rylan nodded. "We need to contact our families, across the border."
Giovanni hesitated a moment and then claimed Holly's seat, carefully lifting his legs and setting them in his lap.
"You two don't need to call anyone?"
Leo shrugged. "No family to call."
Ezra grasped his arm. He had forgotten that.
Leo smiled down at him. "It's been decades, love."
Ezra hesitated, not wanting to ask Giovanni, trying to remember back to the questionnaire. Giovanni solved the question for him. "I have an older sister and father, but they're here. We're… estranged though. They don't know about you, but they also don't know about Malachi or Holly."
"Oh," Ezra said softly. "I didn't know that."
"Most people don't," he said softly.
Ezra nudged him gently with his foot, not wanting to sit up, but wanting to offer him some kind of comfort.
Giovanni sent him a smile, dimples popping up on his cheeks. "It was my choice, not theirs. They didn't approve of me marrying Leo and flipped out when I married Dimitri and Rylan as well. I couldn't handle it."
"Oh," he said softly. He didn't think he could do that. He didn't talk to his mom much, but she was his only family. He couldn't cut himself off completely from her. He was already worried about what he would do when she passed away, if she died before him. With how rare and comparably mild the Selicitus attacks had become… It had become a real possibility. She was sixty. She could have another thirty years, but Ezra wasn't exactly aging fast. Or at all, really, not for the last fifteen years, at least.
Before the last few years, well, days, really, he mentally corrected himself, he had been terrified of Rick's aging. The thought, now, of Rick's death, still stole his breath away, but it didn't hold the weight, the sheer depressing claustrophobia, that it had caused. And then he thought of Malachi, and Giovanni, both human, both mortal. It was… sad.
He cleared his throat and tried to push the thoughts away. "I need to call her. My mom," he clarified.
Leo nodded and shifted to dig out his cell phone. "Do you want company?"
Ezra swallowed around the lump in his throat and shook his head. They didn't need to hear the horrible things she was sure to say. "No. She…" he cleared his throat and tried again. "No, but thank you."
Leo kissed his forehead again and then helped him sit up so he could wiggle out from under him. "I love you," he repeated.
Ezra smiled tremulously up at him. "Thank you."
Leo smiled at him. Giovanni nodded and they departed, holding hands, leaving Ezra alone.
Ezra sighed. He dialed the familiar number before he could chicken out.
His mom promptly answered on the second ring. "Hello?"
"Hello? Who is this? Speak up!"
Ezra tried to force a smile, but his face wouldn't cooperate. "Mom?"
"Ezra? Darling! Oh, it's wonderful to hear from you. How are you?"
"G-Good. Better than I have been."
"Oh, I'm so glad! You really should call more often, it's been so long."
"Yeah," he muttered.
"I got a very troubling phone call from a rude young man a few days ago. I was worried about you. Is everything okay?"
"I- Um, yeah. Now. Sort of."
There was a beat of silence. "Ezra, honey, what's going on? You sound sad."
"Mom, I got remarried. Not to Rick."
The silence lasted awhile longer this time. "When? Why haven't I heard about this? To another man? Honey, I know you and Rick have been having some problems, but a little therapy would-"
"Mom, he hit me."
"I- I know honey, but a few times. I'm sure you could-"
"It wasn't a few times. He- he started when we were twenty-one. And at… At first it was just once in awhile, but…" He trailed off, squeezing his eyes shut. "He- I had to go to the hospital. A lot. Neighbors called it in several times and… It was bad, mom."
His mom didn't reply and he hastened to fill the silence this time. "He once broke a vase over my head and broke fourteen bones. That- That wasn't the first time he broke bones either. I- A few weeks ago, he beat me so bad, I had a- a stroke." He dug his free hand into his thigh, nails biting into the skin through the pants. "He kidnapped me a few days ago," he said, miserably. "He knocked me unconscious, took me to our old house, drugged me, and beat me again when I tried to leave."
"Oh my god."
His mom sounded horrified.
"Why didn't you tell me?" she wailed. "Ezra, I saw the bruises, but I thought it was just a smack, every once in awhile! Something that could be worked out! Baby, I'm so sorry! Are you okay?"
Ezra stared at the wall, tears welling in his eyes. "Y- Yeah," he rasped out. "I- I'm okay now."
"Oh, honey… I'm coming to visit you."
He froze. "W- What?"
"I haven't seen you for over a year! You're remarried and I want to meet him!"
"I- Oh shit."
"Sorry mom," he muttered. "I- um…" He dropped his head back on the couch arm, and rubbed at his shoulder. Tension was knotting the muscles. "I'm married to six men now. They were already together. Four of them are fae."
The silence stretched on and on this time, Ezra to nervous to break it.
"Did you say six men?" his mom asked, voice small.
Ezra swallowed noisily. "Yes?"
She cleared her throat. "So… polygamy? Is that legal over there?"
"Yes," he said, voice barely audible. "It's more common for the fae, I think. I'm not really sure. But- But, it's working."
"They haven't hit you?"
"No," Ezra said quickly, happy to not have to lie. "They haven't hit me, haven't beat me. They're really sweet."
More silence, but when his mom spoke, it was business like and with forced cheer. "Well, I have to meet my son's husbands! I'll come out this week. Give me your address and I'll get a hotel near by. I don't want to impose."
"M- Mom? Are you serious?"
"I haven't seen you for years! I just found out you're married and got hurt."
"Mom, they're faeries. There's… a lot of them, and they're all men."
"Honey, I'm coming to visit."
Ezra squeezed his eyes shut. "Mom, no."
"I- I just got home. I'm tired and sore. I can't- I can't handle the disapproval and- and comments about how at least I've settled down, and- and everything else. I love you but I just, I can't right now."
"Oh baby," she whispered.
"Mum, don't sound so sad. If- If everything works out, maybe later? In a few months?" If he was still here, if Malachi accepted him, if the other shoe didn't drop.
"Honey, I need to see you. You can't just tell me all of this and then not let me visit! I- I need to see you. Make sure you're okay."
"Ezra," she said back carefully. "I need to see you. I need to see my son. I- I can't promise I'll like your husbands, but I love you and I need to see you. I won't… I'll be on my best behavior. I'm not… I just want you to be happy."
"I know," he murmured. He had always known that. It was just some time- most of the time- his mother did not choose the best way to express that wish. She had always had a problem with his sexuality. And she was right, it had been hard to be gay when he was growing up. Kids today still got called names and were bullied, from elementary school, all the way to the workplace. But it wasn't something Ezra could help and his mom's offhand comments about finding a nice girl had stung. And her insistence that he stay with Rick hadn't helped.
"In- In a few weeks then?"
"I want to be there for my son's recovery. Ezra, I know how to take care of you."
"I- I'm mostly okay mom. They got one of the healers, one of the, uh, magic ones, to come help me."
"I still want to see you! I'm coming out. I can get a hotel and come over when you have time."
"Mom- I, no, you shouldn't get a hotel. Let me, let me talk to my husbands, okay?"
"Okay, but call me back. Soon."
"Yeah, I will," he promised. "Bye."
"Bye Ezra, love you."
"Love you too," he said softly.
He hung up the phone and just stared at it for a moment. "Leo?" he called softly. He cleared his throat and called a little louder, louder than he had spoken on the phone.
Leo came jogging in a minute later, looking worried. "Ezra, you okay?"
Ezra nodded and curled his hand around Leo's. Then he shook his head. "I'm tired."
Leo perched on the edge of the couch, pressing his thigh along Ezra's arm. "I can take you upstairs and bring you lunch in bed?"
Ezra smiled slightly. "I'm okay."
Leo nipped his neck. "Let me take you upstairs."
"Oh. Oooh. Okay," Ezra said, a slight flush on his cheeks.
Leo giggled and slid one arm underneath his shoulders. He helped him sit up slowly and then got him on his feet, half supporting him up the stairs and back into his room. The bed was a little high for him to get on comfortably, but Leo pushed him onto it and carefully straightened him out.
"Maybe food first?"
"I just had waffles."
Leo snorted. "Streaks, that was not a short meeting or a short phone call or a short… anything. And you're too skinny," he muttered with a scowl, poking his t-shirt covered ribs.
Ezra made a face at him. "Something light," he ordered.
Leo grinned at him as he got down from the bed. "I can do that."
Ezra smiled at his back as he headed downstairs. It faded quickly. Right. His mom wanted to visit. He didn't exactly know what to do about that. He… actually kind of wanted to see her. It had been awhile.
Leo came back up with a bowl of sliced strawberries quickly and a container of whipped cream. Ezra raised his eyebrows at it. "I can't eat that."
"It's for my snack, silly," Leo said with a wicked grin.
He sat down next to Ezra and picked up one of the strawberries. He held it to Ezra's lips.
Ezra smirked and opened his mouth. Leo slid it into his mouth slowly. Ezra wrapped his tongue around it making sure to brush Leo's fingers. Leo flushed and giggled and kept feeding him the strawberries, fingers lingering in his mouth for longer and longer. It was nice but Ezra was feeling surprisingly horny and Leo wasn't moving fast enough for him. The next time Leo's fingers dipped into his mouth, he sucked on them and let out a little moan.
He smirked when he Leo's breath hitched and opened his mouth again. Leo gave him the next strawberry and Ezra upped the ante with a little wiggle.
Leo let out a groan and pressed another strawberry to his lips. Ezra wrapped his tongue around it and sucked it, and the tips of Leo's fingers, into his mouth. He moaned for good measure.
Leo shifted against him but kept feeding him strawberry slices. He was staring down at Ezra, entranced, a needy look on his face. Ezra stared right back and continued to eat the slices, sucking, licking, and moaning way more than was necessary. Leo, showing a remarkable amount of self-control in Ezra's opinion, just kept feeding him the strawberry slices, even though his breathing was ragged and his shorts were tented rather obviously.
A flash went off in his face suddenly. He started, biting straight through the strawberry and into his tongue. At least it didn't break skin. "Ow," he muttered, just as Leo shouted. "What the hell, Ry?"
Rylan smirked down at them, unrepentant, camera in his hands. "What?" he asked innocently.
"You ruined the mood," Leo wailed.
Ezra scowled him as well. "I wanted to see if I could make Leo come in his shorts without touching him," he added. "And now, you've ruined it."
Rylan let out a small choking sound and then started laughing as Leo turned his scowl to Ezra.
Ezra made a face back at him. "Well, you weren't making any moves to fuck me," he pointed out.
"You need to eat!"
Ezra nodded. "Yes. And I wanted to know if you would come in your pants before you would fuck me if I ate the strawberries really, really slowly."
Leo scowled at him. "Tease."
Ezra grinned up at him and grabbed his hand. It was wet with his saliva and the juices from the strawberries. "How close was I?"
Leo's lips twitched into a sheepish grin. "Closer than I want to admit."
"Besides, I needed a shot of what got three of my husbands staring gape-mouthed from the hall."
Ezra stared at him in confusion for a moment before his eyes widened in understanding. He shoved at Leo for a moment who obediently shifted so he could see the door. Holly stuck his tongue out at him; Dimitri looked away, clearly embarrassed; and Malachi raised a hand sheepishly in greeting.
"That was pornographic," Malachi said, averting his eyes to the ceiling.
Ezra blushed. At least he had already had sex with Holly, Dimitri, and Leo, and Rylan had at least shown a willingness to have sex, but Malachi…
Rylan grinned at him. "I thought you wanted to make Leo come in his pants. Are you going to keep trying or blush?"
Ezra scowled at him. "I didn't actually want to make Leo come in his shorts," he said. "It was just a nice temporarily goal while he fed me a snack. Anyone who doesn't want to watch, get out. And shut the fucking door."
Rylan raised one eyebrow. Ezra stuck his tongue out at him and grabbed Leo's shorts, unzipping them and shoving them down. There was a squeak and then the door slammed shut.
Rylan looked physically pained. "Our hour's up. I have to meet with McCormick."
Ezra smirked at him. "Then you should go do that," he purred as he stared appreciatively at Leo's lacey panties. "I think you're giving me new fetishes," he told the phookah. Rylan made a soft sound but got off the bed and stalked to the door. It slammed shut for a second time.
Leo grinned down at him. "How do you want me?"
"In so many ways."
"We kept an audience," he said softly.
Ezra glanced at the door, surprised, expecting Holly. But it was Dimitri, leaning against the dresser, cheeks darker than normal. But his eyes were soft and fond and it made Ezra blush.
"You only said people who didn't want to watch had to leave."
That made Ezra blush darker but he smiled anyways and waved Dimitri over to the bed. Leo giggled and slid further away to give Dimitri room between them.
Dimitri took the place between them. "You two look very good together."
Leo giggled and groped Dimitri. "I can tell."
Ezra giggled. "Want help with that?"