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A Lesson In Triad Romantics

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“Waiting on your boyfriend,” Don said as he walked towards the cabin, fishing pole in one hand and tackle box in the other. He wasn’t teasing, not the way Alex did; it was more like a statement of fact. That didn’t stop the blush that formed on Roe’s cheeks from spreading all the way towards his ears. Roe gave a shaky nod and Don smiled in spite of the fact that he still felt like he’d had the shit kicked out of him. He couldn’t be mad at this kid even if he wanted to be. He remembered being fifteen. He remembered when even the suggestion of sex made him turn as red as his hair. He remembered that summer so fondly even now, even when it hurt. So he could hardly begrudge Roe the same. Young love was cute and Roe wore it that way.

He made to walk past Roe and head into the cabin so he could clean his lures and pretend to be asleep by the the time his boyfriends found their way back to the cabin. He’d almost made it inside to his self pity party of one. He was opening the door when he heard Roe say his name. He turned to look at the kid, the blush was gone but a visible uncertainty had taken its place.

“Are you and Muck having fight…” he trailed off, biting his lip. “Or you and Penkala? Honestly, I can’t tell who you’re in a relationship with, but you look like you’ve lost a fight.”

“Both,” Don said. He realized as he said the word that it was the first time that he’d admitted that out loud. It was the first time that he’d acknowledged to anyone outside of what that they had that they had it. He hadn't told his mother. Couldn't figure out to tell his friends back home. It was one thing to be gay or have a boyfriend. Two boyfriends, that was something else.

He couldn’t even bring himself to use the word relationship in his own head and that there was probably the root of their problems. Sure there was Alex’s jealous streak and somewhat shocking inferiority complex. There was also Skip’s flair of overcompensation and his unrealistic optimism. But didn’t that all revolve around the fucked up of core that was Don’s inability to vocalize damn near anything?

Roe’s eyes were wide when Don looked at him. “Oh. That’’s a lot.” Yeah, to a boy with his first boyfriend, it probably did feel that way.

“You’re telling me.” It was the first time it had really felt that way, but it did feel like a lot. He remembered with a sickening feeling how powerfully he’d railed against Alex’s insecurity that it was one day going to end up just being Don and Skip. At the time he’d found it utterly ridiculous that such a thought could occur to Alex. Something would be so fundamentally missing without him. How could he imagine that they would carry on. But he was standing on the porch with Roe and he could feel that same insecurity creeping into his chest. There was difference, because Don was the last one invited to the party.

There had been a time when the party had gone on quite wonderfully without him. Not that many summers ago it had been Skip and Alex, party of two.

“They probably didn’t do it on purpose,” Roe said, pulling Don out of self-pity. “I don’t think Muck and Penkala would make anyone feel like shit on purpose.”

“I don’t know, kid. You give Penk a little too much credit,” Don said, because for some reason most of his anger right now was being directed at Alex. Probably because of the hickey the size of a half dollar that Skip was just barely covering with a t-shirt.

“Maybe, but he wouldn’t do it to you.” Roe sounded very certain. “Maybe if you told them you were feeling left out?”

“Look at you,” Don remarked, ruffing the kid’s hair. “Two weeks into your first relationship and you’ve already got sage relationship wisdom.”

Roe shrugged.

“Keep it up and you and Babe are going places, and I don’t just mean the boat dock.”

Roe blushed and Don was reminded of how embarrassed he had been the first time Buck called them out for sneaking out. He remembered how Buck had read Skip and Alex the riot act. He wasn’t going to do that Babe. He wasn’t going to do Roe the disservice of assuming that because Roe had started the summer less experienced meant that he was just following along or getting taken advantage of. Sure Roe was young but that didn’t mean he didn’t know what he wanted.

So he wasn’t going to underestimate Roe. Tease him, sure, but he was going treat him like the adult he was growing into.

“Have fun tonight,” Don said as he pulled the door open. “Promise we’ll have all the yellin’ and screamin’ out of our system by the time you get back.”

As he sat down on his bed and started removing his lure from the line he could see Roe lingering on the porch, probably trying to decide if Don should be left alone right now. The decision was made for him though when he heard Alex’s booming voice.

“Hey Roe, look who we found. Decided we’d walk him down here just in case he got lost.”

Don pulled his pliers out of his tackle box and squared his shoulders.