Another short story thing with my novel characters, something a bit more light-hearted this time, but actually in chronological order for once.
Zouriel counted the stains on the ceiling for the fifth time, listening to Marcus slow and steady breathing next to him. He’d already been awake for an hour, but he really didn’t want to wake Marcus up too early, even though he had always been the hardest to wake up. There hadn’t been an alarm created that Marcus couldn’t snooze right through. If not for Zouriel shaking him awake every morning, he’d ended up in so much trouble back when they were in basic training before shipping out.
No, the real reason Zouriel was still in bed had to do with the ones sleeping in the other room. He didn’t want them to know he was awake yet, because then…That would be when things would have to be explained and talked about.
Zouriel had never had to come out to anyone. His relationship with his mother had been frosty when he’d enlisted and after he realized his feelings for Marcus it took him a good long while to get used to the idea that loving another man was okay. There had only been one brief instance when he’d written his mother a cruel and spiteful note going over how much she had screwed up his life, where he’d ended the whole thing with an “oh, by the way, I’m gay”. Fortunately he never sent it off. A few months later his mother was dead and Zouriel had been shipped home near blown to pieces and barely clinging to life.
Cassandra kind of knew already. When Marcus had reappeared she’d been the only one he could talk to about how shaken he felt, which included the reason why he had such strong feelings about Marcus. He hadn’t spoken the word “love”, but she’d covered his hand with her own, squeezing it gently. And when Zouriel had called her to let her know he’d brought Marcus home there was a gentle teasing tone in her voice. “Remember that Oy’s coming to stay with you, so no funny business then.”
It was Oy and only Oy’s reaction that worried Zouriel right now, which was weird he had to admit. He was just a kid, not even his own kid by blood, though he was one of the boy’s legal guardians now. Surely he’d not care that the broken man that Zouriel had brought home was his old lover, someone who only just now had recovered enough that they both felt ready to see if they could pick things up where they’d left things. Before they’d nearly lost their lives in that insurgent trap.
Finally Zouriel picked up a change in Marcus breathing, the other man letting out a snort before he flopped over on his back, shielding his eyes with his normal arm.
“‘s too bright”, Marcus mumbled.
“The curtains aren’t even open”, Zouriel said, rolling over on his side, so he could see Marcus better.
“Still…” Marcus said. “I don’t like mornings.”
“You just need to get some coffee in you”, Zouriel said and found the pants he’d discarded on the floor last night. He scratched his cheek lightly, deciding that he could skip shaving today. To be honest, he felt too jumpy to put a sharp implement to his skin right now.
He left Marcus and headed into the kitchen to get the coffee started, Zouriel could never work properly either before he’d had his first coffee of the day. The pot was brewing merrily and Zouriel had poked his head into the fridge to see what breakfast foods they had on hand when Oy bounced into the kitchen, his hair still messy from sleep. He was followed by Cassandra who looked like she had a need for caffeine as well.
“Kid woke me up at 6 am”, she said; glaring at the boy, while still reaching out a hand to mess up his hair even more. “I finally convinced him that it would be a great idea to do get started on his weekend homework, so he’d have more time to play later.”
Zouriel winced, feeling guilty that it was Cassandra forced to entertain the boy now, though she didn’t look like she really minded it. She had after all raised him for years before she met Zouriel.
Cassandra had just finished a batch of pancakes using the last of the eggs and Oy was halfway through his first bowl of cereal when Marcus emerged into the kitchen, giving the group a sheepish look.
“I almost fell asleep again”, he said, with that crooked smile that had never failed to make Zouriel’s stomach to do flip flops. He ran his metal hand through his hair, stretching, before he flopped down in the chair next to Zouriel’s.
Zouriel poured Marcus a cup of coffee and placed a short stack of pancakes in front of him, then refilled his own cup before he sat down, twitching slightly. It was now or never.
“I guess this is the point where I properly introduce myself, huh?” Marcus said, before Zouriel could even open his mouth. “I’m Marcus.”
“Cassandra”, she said and held out her hand for Marcus to shake. “Zouriel has told me quite a lot about you.”
Cassandra smiled over the rim of her cup in that scary wicked way and Zouriel felt even more nervous all of a sudden. Marcus either didn’t notice or didn’t care and simply returned her smile, taking a careful sip from his own cup of coffee.
“And you’re called Oy, right?” Marcus said and peered over at the boy, his mouth full of half-chewed cocoa puffs. The boy shook his head vigorously in a nod, before he swallowed.
“And you’re the man that’s been sleeping with Zourie”, Oy said cheerfully.
Zouriel felt his face heat up and quickly reached for an old newspaper to hide behind. He managed to catch a glimpse of Cassandra’s furrowed brow, judging him.
“Yes, Zouriel let me sleep in his bed, which was very kind of him”, Marcus said slowly, unfazed by the boy’s choice of words.
“But you’re feeling better now, right?” Oy said, stirring the sludge that remained in his bowl.
“Yes, I feel a lot better than I did when I first came here”, Marcus said and smiled at the boy, taking another sip from his cup.
“Are you going to go away then?” Oy asked, tilting his head to the side, his brow slightly furrowed, making him look too much like Cassandra, more than he really should, considering he shared no blood with her either.
“I…Really would like to stay, if that’s possible”, Marcus said and glanced over at Zouriel, who realized that this was his cue and he folded up the newspaper on the table.
“Marcus…is a special person to me”, Zouriel began, tearing strips from the newspaper. “I care about him very much…”
Oy refilled his bowl with more cereal, the wheat puffs making a plopping sound as they hit the remaining milk in the bowl.
“So…is he like your boyfriend?” the boy said, almost as an afterthought, since all of his focus seemed to be on the cereal.
Zouriel opened his mouth, and then closed it again.
“Yes, Zouriel is my boyfriend”, Marcus said with a smile, claiming Zouriel’s hand for his own. “I hope that’s okay with you.”
Oy poured milk on his cereal, and then shoved a laden spoon into his mouth. He shrugged in response as he chewed and swallowed.
“Maya in my class asked me if I wanted to be her boyfriend, but I told her I wasn’t ready for that”, the boy said. “But I guess it’s okay for you, cause you’re all old.”
Marcus burst out laughing and it was the most beautiful sound Zouriel had heard in a long time. Cassandra was grinning like a loon, shaking slightly, but all Zouriel could do was to observe the boy in stunned silence.
“Did I say something weird?” Oy said, with a worried look, spoon halfway to his mouth.
“No, no…”Zouriel said. “I just…I really wanted you to be okay with Marcus.”
Zouriel peered over at his boyfriend, his back still heaving with mirth though he’d stopped laughing now.
“He’s pretty funny, now that he’s not sick”, Oy said and grinned. “And…He’s an important person to you.”
With that the conversation seemed to be over and the boy attacked his cereal bowl with renewed vigor.
“You should eat your pancakes before they get cold”, Cassandra said and shot the two men some harsh looks. There was nothing to do but do as she said. Both of them had been trained to follow orders after all.