That Saturday night, Chris was mostly home alone. With Luke at a friend’s for a night and Lacie attending a birthday party sleepover, he only had Willow and Sophia to worry about. That was, until Sophia came bouncing down the stairs, announcing that she was going to Jace’s house.
“Stay out of the liquor cabinet.” Chris warned to which Sophia grinned. “I mean it.”
“Okay, okay.” She replied before snatching her house keys and snapping the door shut behind her. Sighing, Chris flipped through channels. He had nothing to do since putting Willow to bed after reading her three stories. The recorded audience laughed at a lame joke and he changed the channel again. After a few minutes of looking through the guide, he settled for some movie playing on HBO that just started. He hadn’t heard of it, but probably figured that his kids had seen it at least. Maybe that would give them something to talk about.
As the beginning credits were rolling, Chris popped popcorn. Just as he was dumping the bag into the bowl, making the whole house smell like butter, a voice came from behind him. “What are you watching?”
Startled, Chris whipped around suddenly and exhaled seeing it was only Seth. “Shit, you scared me.” To which his husband smirked. “I don’t know, it just came on.” Chris replied, nodding to the television in the next room.
After a few seconds of silence, Seth bit his lip. “Want to watch it together?” Immediately, both of them had thought of the homework their counselor had given them. Spending quality time together. Without kids. Without distractions.
“Are you on call?”
Seth shook his head. “Not tonight.”
Without saying anything else, Chris poured them each a glass of wine. “Good. Now I don’t have to drink by myself.” He joked. Seth smiled, took a glass and the bowl of popcorn into the living room just as the opening scene started.
It ended up being a suspense movie, which Seth used to love—and Chris suspected still did. He tried not to jump at the parts that intended the audience to react. But, of course he did, which did nothing but make Seth tease him.
“Hey,” Chris said, hurt. “Not funny.” He threw a few pieces of popcorn at him. After the twist ending that Seth saw coming but Chris didn’t, he suggested that they play a game of cards.
Shrugging, Chris pulled a deck out from the ottoman cube in front of them. “Sure, if you feel like getting your ass kicked.”
“Really? Because I’m having a hard time remembering the last time you beat me at a card game.” Seth rebutted, heading back into the kitchen. As Chris shuffled the dealt, there were hissing noises behind them. “I’ll know if you stack the deck!” he called.
“No, I’ll beat you with pure talent.”
“Talent, sure.” Seth scoffed, walking back with two Cokes and handing one to Chris. “What are we playing?”
Another movie, the next one in the lineup started and they only half paid attention to it, more focused on their card game and on who was cheating, or not cheating. For the first time in a long time, it felt like they were in college again. Drinking soda, playing games and trying to do things that didn’t cost money. Hanging out, the two of them, cracking jokes and playfully bantering with one another. It was as effortless as it was back when they were only twenty-one.
“Okay. I—de—clare—war!” Chris and Seth said in unison, flipping their last card face up after a series of three face down. “NO! Fuck!” Chris nearly yelled staring at Seth’s ten against his three.
“Ha ha!” Seth mocked as the pair turned over their cards to see what Seth had gotten. “Ooh! Your last ace, too. Damn, what a shame.” He said with fake pity and a real smile.
“Whoa, that was pretty bad.”
“And again, my dear, I have defeated you.” Seth finished dramatically, collecting his cards. “But it’s okay because…you never really had a great track record to start with.”
“You don’t have to be a bastard about it!” Chris said, laughing. He handed the remote over to Seth as he gathered up the deck to put it back in the box. “Want to watch something else since cards has become an embarrassing pastime?”
Shaking his head and grinning, Seth took the remote. “Yeah, sure. Go get some Cokes though?” he said, handing over his empty can to Chris who stood stiffly. He took both the empty cans and both of the empty wine glasses into the kitchen and retrieved two full ones from the refrigerator. When he came back, Seth was still channel surfing.
“You know we have a DVR, right?” Chris asked.
“Yeah, this is easier.”
“But you could read the show description and see what’s on.” Seth turned to look at him, jest in his blue eyes and taking the Coke from his hand. Chris held his hands up in defeat and leaned back into the sofa, watching as Seth finally gave up and searched through the guide.
“Crazy, Stupid, Love?” Seth asked, turning back to Chris for approval. “Never heard of it.” he pressed the info button and read the description.
“Oh,” Chris replied. “Sophia likes that movie.” He said, setting the can on the end table to his right. Seth laughed again.
“Sophia would like this movie.” Seth turned back to Chris, finger hovering over the OK button but waiting for an answer. “Want me to find something else?”
“No way! I love Julianne Moore.”
“Queen,” Seth coughed under his breath, sinking back onto the couch next to Chris. To this, Chris hit him with a pillow.
“Says the man who cried during Gone With The Wind.”
Seth shot him a dirty look before averting his attention back to the movie. Chris, however, was guilty of not really watching. The movie strangely mirrored their own life, in some respects, which made it a little hard to watch, but it was the way Seth looked that made him seem like a more interesting subject. He shifted so that he was laying with his head in Chris’s lap, making the illusion of things being fine—and maybe they were.
Even though he kept being hit with this thought all night, this felt very much like it used to when they were kids, crowded in the living room of a campus apartment, drinking too much beer and not paying attention to a movie. They would exchange stories that happened only a couple of hours ago, about everyone’s narrow escape from the RA’s and public safety at a party that got shut down.
“I tried to warn y’all that I saw the officers!” Seth tried, laughing.
“But literally, we heard you scream ‘CAM-PO!’ right when the RA’s were heading over. And then PS started booking it towards us.” Lauren, a mutual friend who’s apartment they frequented, began to laugh. Everyone tossed their heads back in hysterics.
“Who got written up?”
“Not us, and that’s all I give a shit about!” Dave chimed in.
He remembered, so many times, sneaking around trying not to get caught with alcohol, running nearly blind drunk away from a broken up party only to hear Seth half-shouting, half-laughing behind him going, “Run, run, run, run!” His hand would slip into Chris’s and he’d pull him off into someone’s apartment where they were away from the threat of being written up for drinking.
Chris would be laughing so hard by that point that he could barely breathe, looking on as Seth grinned and peered around for their friends that also bolted.
Suddenly, with the mix of nostalgia and Seth’s head in his lap while he watched a movie, he wanted all that again. The feeling of doing something a little risky, a little dangerous, with the man that opened him up to all that possibility. Now, with Seth so mild-mannered and them being well over the legal drinking age, nothing seemed as exciting.
Yet, there was something to be said for raising children, for doing mundane things together like planning birthday parties and grilling out in the backyard. Sure, they weren’t playing Tipsy Twister, complete with vodka shots in between moves. They didn’t stay up until four in the morning or spend all day making love anymore, but that was all part of life, wasn’t it? That phase of their lives—probably some of their best years—they were over. And maybe that was okay that it was over. Maybe that’s just what happens.
He was thinking about this all throughout watching the movie. All this and the fact that—for the first time in a long time—he and his husband had had a good day. A really good day. Absently, Chris carded his fingers through Seth’s hair and figured that it was okay due to the light sigh he let out. Right when he opened his mouth to clarify, Chris discovered that Seth had nodded off.
Seth missed the ending to the movie, including the shocking twist that even had Chris laughing. He waited until the credits started to roll and when the next movie was announced that he shook Seth awake.
“Hmm?” he mumbled, bleary-eyed.
“You fell asleep.”
“You should probably head upstairs so that I can set up the couch. It’s late anyway.”
Seth sat up, almost surprised that he had ended up in his husband’s lap. “Has Sophia come home yet?” He asked, pulling his hand through the hair that was sticking up because of Chris.
There was a pause where Seth’s eyes changed from meeting Chris’s eyes, then the couch, then back again. “You could…you could sleep upstairs with me if you want.”
Hesitant, remembering the last time this happened, Chris bit his lip. “I don’t know, Seth. Maybe I should just—”
“Please?” Seth cut across him. The earnest look in his eyes was what convinced him that there weren’t any strings attached. That this was a thing not to end badly. That this could be a real step in the right direction.
“Okay. Sure.” Chris said, mentally adding, Don’t sleep with him.
They walked, Seth ahead of Chris, after both of them made sure the front door was locked and that everything downstairs was turned off. Seth texted their daughter to make sure she was okay, that she was still with Jace and to let her know that they were going to bed. She replied quickly, as always, that she was thinking about spending the night with her friend. Rolling their eyes, both Seth and Chris told her to behave herself.
Sliding into bed next to each other, clad in boxers, seemed so normal that it was almost as though none of the past however long had happened. Both of them wished, in earnest, that it wouldn’t have happened, that it could’ve been avoided, but there was no changing the past now.
Exhaustion weighed on them both heavily, seeing how late it was for either to be awake any longer. Yet, neither of them spoke, and they didn’t have to. Because, when Chris laid awake for a few minutes, knowing that Seth had long since fallen asleep, he was startled.
Seth was not asleep. Instead, he wrapped his arm around Chris and pulled him close, as if nothing between them had shattered into a thousand pieces. It was only then that either of them could actually find rest.
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